296 – Departure
Editor: Thor’s Stone
I exchanged a few words with the mercenaries who will be joining us before departure.
Come to think of it, this was the first time I’d act as the leader of a fleet since coming to this reality huh. Well, it’s not like they’re fresh rookies or anything, so there’s probably no need for me to babysit them.
“Just like what’s indicated in the request particulars, our goal is the Eineolus system where the nearest gateway is located. It’s 5 systems away from our current location. I’ve sent you all the navigation data, so please make sure to input it in your nav systems.”
They each replied in the affirmative. There were also some who stayed silent, but it’s not like they were obligated to respond anyway. But I’ll make sure to report them to the Mercenary Guild if they end up not following orders.
“You’ll be synchronizing with the Black Lotus that has the highest hyperdrive output among all our ships when we enter FTL navigation. The Black Lotus will send out a synchronization request to all ships, so once you’ve accepted, it’s fine if you leave the navigation to us. However, there’s a risk of being interdicted during FTL navigation. So just be prepared to respond immediately in the event of an emergency. Otherwise, it’s possible you’d just end up as casualties during a battle.”
Some of the mercenaries raised questions after I said my piece. Basically, they all wanted to know if there was a possibility of an attack being performed by a party other than your usual space pirates and if that’s what forced us to gather reinforcements.
“You’ve probably heard of it already, but a large-scale subjugation operation was conducted against the Red Flags after they performed planetary raids on Refill IV. No matter how you slice it, they just got what was coming to them, but the remnants of the Red Flags might be nursing quite a grudge against the elves of the Refill system. And since I played an active part in the subjugation operation, they might have it out for me as well. In other words, the possibility of some of them trying to get payback wasn’t zero, so I did this just in case.”
Most of the group was convinced by my explanation. There were still some who were suspicious of the whole deal, but that’s to be expected. Those guys simply have a good nose for detecting trouble.
In any case, I made the reward pretty generous in order to reduce their suspicion, and since we formed a fleet, the risk faced by the mercenaries who accepted our request was reduced. In addition, we’ve given them free reign regarding bounties and loot, so if we get attacked by pirates, they’ll make quite a bit of money.
“Um…… It feels like we’re tricking them, Hiro-sama.”
After I cut the transmission, Mimi turned toward me with wrinkled brows.
“We didn’t trick them. Or rather, it’s a bit risky to openly accuse Crimson Lance of foul play at this point.”
“It’s not like we’re sure of it ourselves after all.”
Mimi’s heart seems to be screaming inwardly under the pressure of involving others in danger, but for me and Elma, it was just another day doing the usual mercenary work. If anyone does end up dying at the end of this job, then that just means their luck has run out.
It doesn’t matter whether they’re Iron, Bronze, or Silver rankers. Everyone was a pro, so they’re well aware that making a living as mercenaries entailed risking their lives.
Of course, even if it’s just a temporary thing, I’ll be serving as the leader of our hastily assembled fleet, so I don’t plan on letting them die meaninglessly if I can help it. I will try my best not to let any one of them get shot down. However, their lives are eventually theirs to protect. The best I could do was try not to make mistakes while leading them. In any case, I’ve already resolved myself to do that much when I decided to hire reinforcements.
“Mimi, I’m not some legendary hero you often encounter in stories. I’m just a mercenary. I’m not exactly a saint either. That’s why I won’t hesitate to sacrifice the lives of others if it means protecting mine and all of your lives. Also, it’s not like I was planning on heartlessly using the mercenaries we hired as throwaway sacrificial pawns in the first place. If we do get attacked, I’ll do my best to resist and fend them off without any losses.”
No matter how you look at it, she still doesn’t seem convinced yet. Mm. We’ve been winning battles easily all this time, so I guess that led to her impression of me being skewed a bit. I wonder how I should explain it better.
“Mimi, you seem to be getting the wrong idea here, so I’ll give it to you straight. No matter how skilled Hiro is using abnormal maneuvers and how good Krishna’s performance as a ship is, fighting Crimson Lance led by a Gold ranker like Marie head-on is still basically impossible, okay? You’ve only seen Hiro easily win against enemies like the Vereverem Federation military, crystal lifeforms, and competitors in matches, right?”
“Hiro has been able to win in such situations until now because he’s basically always played the role of the attacker. He’s always dictated the flow of battle due to the surprise and confusion caused by his weird and abnormal maneuvers. That’s why we were able to get the upper hand on even the Vereverem Federation fleet back then.”
We made use of a super-dangerous and illegal Singing Crystal in order to attract a swarm of crystal lifeforms from the void back then after all. Without it, we certainly wouldn’t have been able to repel the Vereverem Federation fleet with just the strength of the system garrison and the mercenaries present in the Termaine system at the time.
“But in this case, our opponent is a fleet led by a genuine Gold-rank mercenary. We are going to be fighting ships that have exponentially better performances than your average pirate ship coupled with skilled and experienced pilots and crew members used to coordinated maneuvers. No matter how weird and abnormal Hiro’s maneuvers are, he probably won’t be able to win against them head-on. That’s the kind of opponents we’re facing right now.”
“Thanks for the detailed explanation, Elma. But did you really have to emphasize that my maneuvers are abnormal?”
“Of course, I had to.”
I couldn’t really retort after getting answered with such conviction. I see. So it was necessary huh. Can’t be helped then. Yeah, it can’t be helped.
“But it looks to me like Hiro-sama is still confident in taking them on though.”
“I wonder. This might sound a bit arrogant coming from me, but I personally don’t think I don’t have a chance of squeezing out a win if I do go up against those Crimson Lance guys.”
After hearing my words, the two ladies fixed their gazes on my face.
“I specialize in taking on groups of enemies, you see. But since I’m not clear about the exact strength of the enemies and can only get a rough estimate of their ship’s performance, I can’t really say for sure that I’d be able to win.”
Honestly speaking, I wouldn’t be able to get a clear picture until I’ve actually fought them. If we’re just competing in total firepower and durability, it’s obvious that we wouldn’t be able to win. Even though Krishna’s energy shields are pretty high-performance and tough, they wouldn’t be able to last long against a constant barrage of laser cannon fire. There’s also the armor plating as the last line of defense, but Krishna’s still considered a small-class ship, so it wasn’t that reliable in the long run.
“It would still be best if we avoided a fight against them altogether.”
“Right, that would be the best outcome.”
“I wonder if it will really turn out like that though.”
“Yeah, it’s a real toss-up.”
To be honest, I’ve completely given up that notion. That’s why I ended up hiring mercenaries to give us even a little bit more of an edge. I wouldn’t have such a hard time if I could just take them all on with Krishna alone…… But not everything in life goes the way you want it to after all.
『Master, we’re about to leave port shortly.』
“Roger that. All ships, request permission to depart and assemble at Point Alpha. Go ahead and ask for clearance, Mimi.”
I turned away from Mimi after seeing her cheerfully respond to my instruction and proceed to get departure clearance. I then moved my line of sight toward the section of the port where the ships of Crimson Lance were anchored. The spot was already devoid of any of their ships, with others taking their place. They apparently left port the day after I posted a request through the Mercenary Guild.
However, when we came up to space from Refill IV four hours ago, the small recon ship was still loitering around on the planet’s satellite orbit. They should have launched out to orbit at least two days ago and waited for us all this time.
“I wonder if they’ll give up after seeing our numbers.”
“It would be really great if they did.”
Elma responded to my muttering and shrugged her shoulders. It seems she really thought so from the bottom of her heart.