Chapter 15.1 - At a Loss
Su sat at the mountain summit and watched the scenery.
The top of the mountain was the only high point in this entire region, allowing for a wide field of view. A boundless grassland stretched out as far as the eye could see; however the scenery and colors brought about an extremely monotonous feeling. Dark clouds continued to fill the skies, quickly shifting about under the strong urging of powerful winds. If one stared into the sky for a long time, they would get the illusion that what they were looking at wasn’t clouds, but rather the ground that they were falling towards.
Su raised the sighting device, and the world within was just as monotonous as before; peaceful without any abnormalities. The herds of deer, quick rabbits, and grass wolves would roam about from time to time. At times, cruel battles would break out, with the loser becoming the victor’s meal. Everything was the same as how it had always been. The wind blowing against his face didn’t provide him with the slightest hint of danger either.
This type of peaceful, ordinary lifestyle without dangers was truly unsuited for Su. From as soon as he could remember, each day involved searching for food, searching for the next place to stay, or battling for survival. There was never a day of rest. Even if he stayed in an inhabited area or a company, it was just to replenish his supplies and not a place where he could completely relax. He might even be more tense, because people were much more dangerous than mutated creatures.
Right now, his back was leaning against N958. Su had a place to sleep, more pure water to drink than he knew what to do with, and large amounts of reserve ammunition. He even had an entire box of 12.7mm anti-aircraft machine gun bullets. All of Su’s weapons had great power as well as simple composition, and practically all of his bullets were one-shot kills, rarely needing a second shot. In reality, the true reason why he developed this frightening skill in marksmanship was because Su didn’t have money. Money was expensive, and the often penniless Su couldn’t afford to use automatic rifles that fired in bursts. Even though sniper bullets and hand-crafted bullets were more expensive than automatic rifle bullets, if each shot killed, after the battle ended, his expenses would still be a lot less.
Perhaps he had become used to the harsh life. Now, when he looked at the storehouse full of olden era weapon ammunition, the clean water that could run for a long time, and the box of nutrition paste that could be generated each day, Su’s life lost purpose.
Right now, his life seemed to only hold a single meaning. This meaning was waiting for the Black Dragonriders to come and then fight to his death.
Su suddenly felt that life was extremely absurd.
The world would never care about how a certain person felt and would continue operating like usual, just like how the sun would rise each day. Even if thick clouds filled with radiation covered the entire sky, the sun would still rise in the morning, only hidden from everyone’s view.
As such, Su’s vacant life persisted. In the blink of an eye, five days had already passed. No signs of the Black Dragonriders appeared, as if this organization had never existed in the first place. However, Su understood well that they could appear at any time. Meanwhile, if he left this battlefield, Su wasn’t confident in taking down a dragonrider with him, so he still continued to idle about this region, and also continued this calm, vacant, and pointless lifestyle.
Su wasn’t the only one at a loss as to what was going on.
Outside of Saratoga, the Black Dragonriders’ camp was just as dignified and organized as before, however, the subordinates that walked in and out were clearly impatient. At first, Luthor would sit on the cover of the off-road vehicle, look into the distance, or look at the electronic tactical map in his hands like before. However, after not receiving any results for five or six days like this, Luthor himself even felt that sitting here day after day like this was somewhat foolish.
With the inhabited area’s example, Saratoga’s refugees didn’t dare provoke the Black Dragonriders, so they all stayed clear of the cordon. Occasionally, they would peer into the camp, but only through places like building cracks, to take a secret look at the statue like Luthor on top of the off-road vehicle.
Luthor began to feel more and more as if those sneaky gazes were full of mockery. These eyes pierced him like needles. Luthor wanted to leave this unlucky, desolate ghost of a place. However, regarding the defeat report that had been sent back to headquarters a few days ago, Commander Julio should have drafted up a new plan within an hour, so the only thing left was approval from the higher ups. From the Black Dragonriders’ customarily swift and decisive way of doing things, a plan should have received approval by the end of that same day. Then, Luthor would lead his own subordinates away from this camp and return to headquarters to narrate what happened. Justin and the others would remain here on standby while waiting for a new commander to arrive.
Who would have guessed that after the plan was passed on, no response was given back and no information returned. Luthor had waited here for six days already. He couldn’t restrain his impatience and sent Commander Julio a message, who in turn replied several times with “plan is currently undergoing approval”, “Waiting to pass, please wait patiently”, and in the end completely decided not to reply. On the sixth day, the commander might as well have shut off communications with Luthor from his side.
Luthor was completely baffled. He had never encountered this type of situation before. During this idle period, he contacted people from his family to find out what exactly was going on. In the end, the response he obtained was exactly the same as the one he got from Julio: the follow-up plan is waiting for approval.
Bureaucracy? For some reason, this word from the olden era emerged in Luthor’s head. However, when he thought about the individuals in the Black Dragonriders who held great authority, which one didn’t act quickly and decisively?
During this period of Luthor’s confusion, during the first three days, Justin was still looking at him indifferently like some kind of joke and would even occasionally fire some sarcastic comments. However, after three days, all of the dragonriders became restless and wondered why headquarters was so slow with their next orders. They’ve also tried their own means of seeking the cause, but all of their own channels only returned with the same reply, telling them that the follow-up plan of action is waiting approval.
As for where the follow-up plan of action was stuck at, those that knew of this information didn’t breathe a word about it. In fact, knowing and not knowing was the same, because the ones within the Black Dragonriders headquarters that could pause the plan to this extent and even leave Commander Julio powerless were just those few individuals. Towards these few individuals, no one dared to provoke them. There was not much difference between inquiring about these people and searching for death.
This was why Su continued to vacantly remain on the mountain. Luthor and Justin continued to stay in Saratoga’s camp, similarly at a loss.
Su still had many things he could do. He first used the factory area’s intelligent scanning device to scan the composition of a small metal strip’s composition, and then he smelted down a few materials from the storeroom to form an alloy that was of the same composition as the metal strip. He then used the automatic lathe to slice them into tens of thousands of metal pieces. He then bent these metal pieces at a certain angle. In the next few days, Su scattered these metal pieces all around the mountain region. The mountain region was extremely large, so even though there were many metal pieces, they were all buried within weeds, mountains, and grit, making them practically invisible. These metal pieces were extremely brittle, and when broken, they would release ten low to extremely high frequencies, most of which were inaudible to human ears. However, for Su, this sound within several kilometers was extremely ear-piercing.
There weren’t really any large-scale mutated creatures, and the one or two that did show up once in a while were long shot dead by Su. As for the activity of small creatures, they were still rather easy for him to distinguish.
After arranging these metal pieces, Su would clean up the base. If he needed undisturbed sleep, he would lie down by the base’s doors and sleep for ten minutes. After that, he would wake up on time. Falling asleep and waking up took less than 3 seconds. For the remaining time, Su used the base’s factory to modify a few bullets, carving complicated patterns on the bullets’ surface. The metal strip and carving patterns were both things he learned from old hunters in inhabited areas. However, the carvings from back then were just a few simple lines, while Su had already developed it himself to the level where it became almost like ornamental decoration.
From start to finish, Su had never used the lavishly adorned bedrooms on the third floor even though he had also swept them cleanly.
The amount of time Su stayed in the base for was actually rather short. He was no computer specialist. Even though he used his basic knowledge to carefully inspect the functions of the central computer capabilities according to the operations manual, everything appeared to be normal. He wasn’t able to detect any other systems, so he obviously wouldn’t know that someone was currently using the cameras to watch his every movement inside N958.
For Su who grew up in the wilderness, his senses towards things that could threaten his life were extremely sharp. In fact, this was an instinct many creatures in the wilderness possessed. However, towards things like surveillance systems that did not pose him a direct threat, his sensitivity was much lower. When the central computer’s display showed Su as the base’s highest and only administrator, he believed it as well. However, whenever he stayed in the base, Su would have a vague sense of discomfort, but he couldn’t tell the origin of this discomfort, so each time, he wouldn’t stay for a long time within the base.
As for water, ammunition, nutrient-filled food, and power source, Su only used what he needed, He didn’t take any more.
Compared to Su’s bustling self, Luthor was about to go mad. Being forced to admit defeat wasn’t a good feeling, but what was even more unbearable was facing the one who instigated this day after day. It wasn’t that the Black Dragonriders didn’t allow defeat, however, they did require a sufficient explanation. In an organization like this where power trumped all, one had to have either overwhelming military strength, overwhelming intellect, or, overwhelming patience, allowing one to muddle their way in the lower ranks all the way to retirement. Luthor did not have talent in military strength, and he had always tried to prove that he possessed strategical ability. This defeat was undoubtedly his most unbearable one. Even though Commander Julio didn’t offer any additional evaluation to this past operation, he definitely wouldn’t have any positive comments to offer. If the Fabregas family wasn’t willing to offer their support, then Luthor’s first lieutenant rank might change to second lieutenant.
On the seventh day, Luthor felt as if there was a painfully glaring and undisguised gaze peering at him through a window crack. He had already endured it for six days, yet he never expected there to be this kind of straightforward provocation on the seventh day!
Luthor leapt off the off-road vehicle and snatched the smart modular rifle from a subordinate. He turned it into sniping mode and casually aimed before pulling the trigger!
Pu pu pu. Faint flashes of light appeared from the rifle, the sound softer than an olden era pistol. More than ten rounds flew a high trajectory, a large number of them entering the window a thousand meters out. Under his rage, Luthor revealed a marksmanship skill that he would normally never reveal.
The house that was put together with wooden planks and iron sheets couldn’t defend against the penetrative force of the bullets at all, and several miserable shrieks immediately sounded from within. The room was immediately opened, and a woman carrying two children completely covered in blood staggered out. She couldn’t help but kneel down after every few steps, even dropping the children on the ground. Even though they fell rather heavily, the two children still didn’t move, evidently having lost their lives long before falling onto the ground.
The woman cried hysterically, shouting as she rocked and swayed her children. However, no matter how she shouted, there would never be any response.
Luthor had never thought that a scene like this would appear. It was as if a bowl of cold water splashed on his face, and all of the anger and hallucinations were extinguished. He lowered the rifle. Even though he had never considered these people who lived in inhabited areas to be humans like himself, Luthor’s heart still received a heavy blow. Each time the woman cried out, a large sledgehammer struck against his heart.
The woman finally gave up her efforts. She staggered to her feet and walked unsteadily towards Luthor. She cried as she reached her hand towards Luthor. He could see that the woman’s chest had several wounds that were quickly widening as well. With every step, the woman’s body would leave behind a bloody streak. The woman’s blood should have long drained out, but the woman already walked almost a hundred meters, still weeping and walking without end.
Justin and a few other dragonriders emerged from the camp and stood by the entrance, quietly watching this scene.
With a dong sound, the rifle fell from Luthor’s hand onto the ground. He turned around and walked with large steps towards the camp. The dragonriders all took a few steps to the side to allow him a path. As Luthor passed by them, they could all see that Luthor’s face was as white as paper.
One of Luthor’s subordinates silently walked up and picked up the rifle. He took aim and fired a few rounds, ending the woman’s suffering.
All of Saratoga’s residents walked out, silently looking at the two children, silently looking at that woman, silently looking at the bloody streak running between the woman and her children.
All of the dragonriders returned to the interior of the camp. A subordinate hesitated, but in the end, he still walked up. He removed his cloak and covered the woman’s body.
An old man with white hair covering his face walked out from the circle of Saratoga residents. He directly walked to the woman’s side, and with one motion, directly flung the waterproof, thermal cloak with multiple defensive purposes hatefully onto the ground in front of the subordinate’s face. Then, he picked up the woman covered in blood before slowly walking towards Saratoga.
This was the greatest provocation and insult towards the subordinates and the Black Dragonriders. However, this time, no one opened fire.