248 – Prelude to Disaster
Editor: Thor’s Stone
“Um, those outfits are……?”
“I heard we’d be heading to a forest, so I made a minimum number of preparations.”
“Um…… What about those backpacks?”
“I heard we’d be heading to a forest so I made a minimum number of preparations.”
I replied with the same words, but that’s really the reason anyway, so it can’t be helped.
Just like yesterday, Lilium met up with us in front of Black Lotus to continue being our guide and was befuddled by what she saw. Why? It’s because all of us were fully decked in survival gear, including chameleon thermal cloaks. The chameleon thermal cloaks have hex-like patterns that change color when you press the switch located below the neck that allows them to blend in with the surrounding environment. Once you activate this function, it would be pretty difficult for others to spot you if you take an appropriate distance.
“Um, well, you don’t really need to be that vigilant you know……? We’ll be getting a local guide once we arrive there after all.”
“I sure hope so.”
I’m sure I was displaying the expression of a man who has attained enlightenment right now. My actions might seem strange to others, but in my view, this was just preparing for any sort of trouble beforehand. According to my experiences so far, if something’s gonna happen then this was practically the perfect time. Yeah. I’m almost sure something or other will happen to us while we’re strolling around a forest within Grado clan territory. I’m already quite familiar with the pattern.
“Alright then. We’ll need to arrange for transportation in order to come to the Grado clan’s territory, so please follow me, everyone.”
In the end, we started walking just behind Lilium, who already stopped fussing about our group’s current get-up. Seen from the side, I’m sure we looked like quite a strange group, but it’s not like I care about how other people see us anyway. After all, our lives are at stake here. So I really have to take things seriously. Very seriously.
“We’re really overdoing it, aren’t we?”
“We’re standing out a lot.”
“Yeah. Aren’t we bein’ too cautious?”
“Even if we are, isn’t it okay? I also did some research and found that there are quite a lot of dangerous insects living in unmanaged natural forests. We might get bitten by them while walking around and suffer from terrible itches, Big Sis.”
“Alright, guys. If everything I’ve prepared ends up being useless in the end, I promise I’ll buy you all anything you like. But you guys better prepare yourselves if my concerns turn out to be right on the money. Well, except for Whisker that is.”
“Well, somebody’s acting all smug. You won’t back out, will you?”
Elma, who was walking right next to me, looked up at my face and grinned teasingly.
“As long as your requests are reasonable, then sure. Don’t ask me to buy you a ship, okay?”
“Of course I won’t. I’m not gonna go that far. I think I’ll just have you buy me some really expensive liquor.”
“Well, if it’s just that, then okay.”
Judging from her previous purchases, it probably won’t cost me more than 100,000 Enels. That’s okay with me.
“Even if you say we have to stay reasonable, Boss’s sense of what’s actually ‘reasonable’ is far too broad though, so I can’t decide what’s okay.”
“Eh? Uh, I’m fine with it if it’s a hundred thousand or so, I guess?”
“Hiro-sama, that amount is already well beyond normal common sense.”
“Big Brother’s sense of money value is really weird.”
I only answered Tina honestly, but Mimi and Whisker ended up reprimanding me. What gives?
“Uh, okay. Then how about 10,000 Enels?”
“We’re livin’ the dream, aren’t we?”
I already reduced the amount by a lot, but Whisker was still looking at me as if I was someone hopeless. It looks like she still found the amount high.
“You guys are talking about some amazing stuff……”
“That’s just how mercenaries are.”
Elma replied to Lilium, who was pretty taken aback by our conversation and shrugged her shoulders dismissively. Yep. That’s just how we mercenaries are.
“So this is our ride huh…… Well, it sure is unique.”
“I wonder how this thing works?”
“Un……? It’s probably an aircraft, right? Where’s the engine though……?”
The mechanic sisters scrutinized the aircraft that would serve as our ride and started walking around it to inspect each nook and cranny.
Lilium led us to where it was parked. It was a vehicle resembling a centipede with its segments equipped with pairs of dragonfly wings.
Apparently, it didn’t have any engine. Instead, two pairs of wings resembling those of a dragonfly’s were attached to each box-shaped passenger car to provide lift. They also made the vehicle look like a centipede as well.
“Does this thing fly by using magic power?”
“Yes. It’s a magic-powered flying passenger vehicle that makes use of the specially processed wings of a creature called yenmuririu. It flies using the power of the wind spirits.”
“I think it’s yenmuririu.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
Lilium smiled sweetly at our reactions. Yeah, she was a beauty alright. But wait a minute. We’re really gonna ride on this thing? Seriously? We’re gonna fly in this unknown vehicle with fragile-looking wings made out of parts of some sort of alien creature? Ain’t that kinda scary?
“Is it really alright? We won’t crash partway, won’t we?”
“Ahaha, every first-timer reacts like that at first. But it’s okay. The yenmuririu wings fly through the power of the wind spirits in the atmosphere, so this thing will never crash unless it was poorly maintained.”
“We’ve definitely performed the appropriate maintenance procedures. There’s no problem.”
An elven guy got off the flying vehicle and reassured us. It was Hiishi, who’s been serving as our driver since day one of our vacation here on Theta. He’s the quiet sort, and I could count the number of times I’ve heard him speak with my fingers.
“I guess it can’t be helped…… Let’s get on board then.”
“Each passenger car isn’t that big. Hiro-dono can ride with the two dwarven women in one car while the other two can ride on the next one.”
“Roger. C’mon you two. Hurry and get on.”
I thought they’d be a lot more hesitant in the face of unknown tech, but contrary to my expectations, the mechanic sisters obediently boarded the vehicle.
“Let’s get on board too.”
Elma was as calm as usual, but Mimi’s tension was quite high. I wonder if she’s excited because she’ll get to ride a mysterious magical vehicle this time? As for me, I was more worried than excited.
“You’re slow, Boss. C’mere. Hurry.”
The car truly was a bit cramped. It’s kinda like sitting on train seats. Um, they were seats that faced the direction the vehicle will be moving toward. …I think they called them cross seats or something like that.
The passenger car was installed with cross seats facing ahead and the sisters already left a space open for me between them. I’d be sandwiched between them again.
“Flowers in both hands huh.”
“Right? Aren’t ya happy you’ll be sandwiched by two cute girls, Boss?”
“Yep. Whisker sure is cute alright.”
“Tina-chan’s also cute y’know!”
“Hooray for the cute Tina-chan. Yay.”
“That sounds so fake!”
And so, the flying train(?) took off with us basking in a harmonious(?) atmosphere. There seems to be no particular signal used to announce take-off. Aren’t they being a bit lax?
“Ooh, it really does fly. I don’t understand how though.”
“I wonder if those thin wings function the same as anti-gravity devices?”
“Didn’t they say this thing flies using the power of the wind spirits or something like that?”
“It’s a vehicle that totally ignores the principles of aerodynamics huh?”
Once the flying train was up in the air, the mechanic sisters immediately started checking out the wings shining in magic light from the car windows. I also scooted over Tina’s head and looked outside to check out the wings made out of yen… err, whatever it’s called.
“It’s shining like crazy. Can we actually use this stuff for eco-lighting?”
“I wonder? I guess we could if they still shine brightly like this in outer space. But do wind spirits exist in outer space anyway, Boss?”
“Mm, I’ve heard that elves can actually use magic in colonies and starships, but I don’t think they would shine while casting spells. Besides, these were made from biological materials, right? It seems difficult to maintain and mass-produce them. It would also be troublesome to secure replacements because of the difficulty of procuring them.”
Man. Pro engineers sure can glean a lot just by getting a quick look at these incomprehensible biological vehicle wings.
We continued to fly around for a while, and when the train made half the journey and entered the territory of the Grado clan, Whisker noticed something unusual while we were in the middle of flying over the vast forest.
“Nn? What’s wrong?”
I heard Whisker gasp while looking out the window and turned toward her to ask what’s wrong. By the way, Tina was currently napping while leaning against and drooling all over me. Are you a kid?
“Um, I think the wings are looking pretty weird right now.”
I immediately looked out and saw that the wings were indeed behaving strangely. The light they were emitting was far brighter than when we first took off, and the wings appeared to be shaking rather intensely and irregularly.
“I’m getting a reaaally bad feeling about this.”
“It kinda feels like a starship thruster in the middle of being overloaded.”
Whisker chuckled dryly. I also followed suit. Ahaha.
“The heck! This ain’t the time to laugh, is it!?”
“B-Big Sis! Wake up already, Big Sis!”
“Huh!? W-What!? Are we there already!?”
After being jolted awake by Whisker, the top of Tina’s head bumped squarely onto my chin.
“Ouch!? What!? What!?”
Is your head made of rock or something!? I lost consciousness for a moment there! I almost couldn’t prevent myself from screaming in complaint.
“Big Sis! Wings! The wings!”
Whisker pointed toward the wings outside the window on the left-hand side of the car that Tina was sitting next to.
And the moment Tina turned her attention toward the wings, they suddenly crumbled. Yep. They crumbled into itsy bitsy pieces.
Ah, it resembled the way the thing we saw at the art museum got destroyed.
“Me!? This is my fault!?”
As we panicked, the wings on Whisker’s side also crumbled to dust.
“One pair of wings on the cars in front and behind us are also goners!”
“You gotta be kidding me! Eh? Don’t tell me–”
This flying train was separated into four cars. The one in front was the pilot’s car, while the car right behind it was where Lilium was riding in. The next car after that was where we were riding in, and the last car was where Mimi and Elma were. One train car was equipped with four wings each. There were sixteen wings in total, and half of them were already destroyed. In other words, half of the train has lost all propulsive power.
“H-Haha. We only lost half of the wings. I suppose the train won’t crash just from this.”
“Y-Yeah, I guess. I’m sure they have at least that much of a safety margin–”
Before our eyes, the remaining wings of the car in front of us also shattered. And immediately afterward, the vehicle began to tilt down to the ground below.
“The remaining ones on the car in the back are gone too!?”
“This is bad! Only the ones on the front-most car are remainin’!”
“We’re gonna cra–!?”
Bang! After a violent-sounding crack, the passenger cars started falling straight down. What entered my vision, which seemed to be seeing stuff in slow-motion again, were the two front-most train cars flying away, with one car only barely hanging on to the pilot’s car. It looks like the lead car only had one pair of wings left too.
I held the screaming sister’s quivering bodies with both of my arms and curled up to prepare for impact.
Soon after, a strong shock reverberated throughout the car, and I lost consciousness as a result.