”Oh nevermind, she’s here.”
Save a lot of convenience for the sappers.
Despite the looks of it, the Vinland girl wasn’t the last of the squad to arrive. She was the last among the attacking sappers to arrive, but they weren’t yet up the headcount just yet. ”I think there are still a couple of escort troops that still aren’t here yet, but all the sappers are here.”
Michael turned a bit, giving clear view of the two other sapper of company D. ”Yes, we only have this many...”
“Don’t be a defeatist.” The boy beside Anna suddenly spoke, seemingly dissatisfied by Michael’s unenthusiasm. “There must be a reason they only assign so few of us. It mu-.” “Owen.”
His sister sternly cut him off. Just like what she had feared. ”We just have to do with what we have.”
They have had the entire night to dwell on it. It had grown boring already. ”Anyway.”
The Richelieu siblings, led by the older one, stepped forward to greet the Vindander. ”I’m Anna. And this is Owen. We’re your partner in this tunnel mission. How are you today?” ”I’m Reyna. And I’m tired.”
Reyna offered a sheepish smile as she started to finally wake up. “I’ll manage, don’t worry. What about you three?”
Reyna looked at the three other sappers with a small amount of interest. Slowly, Reyna kept nibbling on the cracker, halfway through with it. The very act helped with her nerves and kept her from thinking about other more stressful topics.
“Oh we’re ready for this! Right sis?” The younger boy was just waiting for this moment. The power of youth. He wanted to prove. It was usually combined with bad knowledge, leading to undesirable consequences, but thankfully his words were pretty benign. On the contrary, it was an up to the spirits of the other three, who seemed to be dead tired to be awake before the sun. ”I’m doing good, thank you Reyna. I’m honored to be cooperating.“
His sister couldn’t help but nod in his stead.”I’m doing good too, a little sore but good. Thanks.”
Reyna’s smile grew a little wider as she blurted out to Michael “Did Lucia cuddle you a little too hard last night?”
Once the words left Reyna’s mouth, she realized what she just said and mentally slapped herself. Why did she say that? It must be because she was tired, but she hoped she didn’t make Michael mad or anything.”Pfft”
Oh, she didn’t know. The dwarf of the nobleman has a mistress? But she wasn’t too surprised. But still.
Michael found the surge of embarrassment rushing up his face, as soon as he heard his friend from company struggling to stymie a laugh. That last time she jumped on Michael’s back and then swung around him made his popularity too well-known. Or the fact that she stayed with him the entire time in Amone. That was probably the reason Middleton knew. A little depressing too, that because of it, she was forcibly dragged away from the squad.
Just as Anna was stopping her laugh, Michael stopped, or tried to, prevent his face from turning into a tomato. He cleared his throat twice. His attempts clearly highlighted otherwise. ”Whatever suits your likings, I guess.”
He admitted it. Sort of...with a passive aggressive remark down the line. ”If you want my version of the story: I was down the street hit by the shell to rescue some survivors of that shell.”
So that is what really happened to Michael. Although embarrassed herself that she blurted out something so adorable she couldn’t help but giggle a little at Michael’s response. That’s something that she could tell Lucia later, how easily embarrassed he is anyway. Aside from that, the grim thought of the shell was not something Reyna wanted to think of, and so she decided to believe her own version a little more, if only in imagination. “Sorry...but I’m glad you’re ok.”
She quickly apologized to Michael. Reyna’s face was slightly tinted red, the laughter from Anna not helping not to mention the cute image she had in her mind. They now probably thought she went around telling secrets now, which was untrue. In fact, Reyna didn’t think many knew much about her due solely to the fact she normally kept herself in places where fewer people were around and she certainly didn’t make it her mission to speak to everyone, even though she did speak to others every so often.
She’s glad that he’s ok. That’s sort of eerie when he was the rescuer instead of the one being rescued. The one who saw hundreds of people being ‘not ok’ in that street. But for the sake of good will, he didn’t voice his victimizing complaint. Just a nod to accept her apology. ”I think I’ll be handling it just fine though.”
Let his spirit carry this battered body forward. If he did not collapse after this whole debacle, it’d be a miracle.
“Big sis, looks like our guys are calling us.” Owen tugged on Anna’s shirt”Oh?”
She looked over in the distance. A soldier waving at her and making hand gesture telling her to get going ”Looks like my squad is ready to go. I guess we’ll make our departure.”
She extended her hands both to the sappers of the 15th Atlantic Rifle.”Good luck to you both.”
Then to Michael specifically. ”Remember our scheduled time?” ”Yeah, but unfortunately I lost my watch in one of the Amone fight.”
Michael replied, to which Anna considered for a few seconds.”Then use this.”
She pulled from her shirt pocket her own watch. ”I’ll share with my little brother. Return it to me once you’re done, ok?”
The Edinburgh sapper nodded firmly in reassurance, as she placed the silver watch onto his hand. The slick streamline design was really timeless when combined with the silver glow of the metal itself. A rather classic design for the upper class who value some good simplicity, though unfortunately it was still victimized by the dirty war.
Michael turned back to Reyna. He knew it might be foreign hearing what they just exchanged. He knew that he still hadn’t communicated the plan over to Reyna yet, which was something that he shouldn’t do, but it was easy to understand. Or at least it should be. If anything, he can just lead the way until then. ”I’ll explain when we are getting there.”
Reyna was indeed unsure of what just transpired, but she recognized valuable objects when she saw them. The watch was exquisitely detailed enough for the upper echelons of society yet did its intended job. Noting this, Reyna nodded to Michael and the other two before that. She didn’t pretend to know about the relationship that Michael had to the other two sappers, but nor did she really ask. “Ok.”
Reyna replied simply to Michael. It was the best response she could think of, with Reyna just now feeling the urge to eat more food. It was a good thing she prepared a little water in advance to quench her thirst. She turned her head to a noise to the right of her, spying Senja and another soldier she was not familiar with. Even Senja she only knew barely by name, but the accent she had was very distinct, probably especially so in the Atlantic Rifles. Hearing the question Senja asked, Reyna raised her hand with a nod in reply. Then again, Reyna was always hungry it seemed. With a small smile at the thought of food, Reyna finally said “Yes. Thanks” ”Oh Senja. It’s lovely to see you again.”
Michael’s attention turned from the watch to the two final guests of this sortie. And to his surprise was Senja, along with a girl that he didn’t really know. Nevertheless he didn’t spare them his greeting gestures. ”Is your injury ok now?”
And his concern for the injury Senja suffered the day before due to Michael’s hasty but arguably good intentioned decision. And also for the food she gave him.”Thank you very much Senja. I appreciate it.”
A little breakfast could really help with the upcoming tough fight
Once the little break for some breakfast had ended, the tunnel strike force departed as soon as the sun was visible on the horizon. ”Ok I’ll get on with what I have been planning to do.”
Michael spoke as they were halfway along the quiet, eerie sight of devastation. Hopefully it would both give Reyna the information and avoid the distraction of contemplation. There should be none of that now. ”You still have that map I gave you before coming into Amone?” “Yeah, I got it right here.”
Reyna pulled out the map Michael gave her at the beginning and held it out to him to take and use.”May I have that for a moment?”
He took out the pencil in his shirt pocket and marked a few spots on the paper. The most important one, the medical bay, he circled, and he did so more boldly than others.”It’s gonna be easy to remember. We’ll enter at this exact time, and then exactly by the seconds ten minutes later, we will set the charge right here, to coordinate with the other team. We’ll cut their potential reinforcement from within. ”
Then he pointed at the other spots in which he marked differently with an X. ”Then we will blow these areas up. We can go together or split up, that’s one thing I want to ask you. I kind of want to make it fast by splitting up, so we can leave faster, but you may have a better idea”
Reyna looked at what Michael drew on the map, listening to him and asking small questions to clarify information. Finally, she nodded to Michael. “I agree. I’ll be fine on my own, but we need to have longer fuses so that both of us can get out of there.”
Reyna observed. “Little concerning we’re detonating near a medical bay, but I see a barracks that leads right into it and then to only one exit if we destroy the tunnels here.”
Reyna pointed out the points connecting to the medbay. “It don’t lead to anywhere but their above-ground barracks so if you wanted to we can give the wounded a chance if you’re feeling moral.”
Though probably not ideal to the higher ups, Reyna was more than a little moral even in this hellish war. ”Well, we can’t really collapse the other exit anyway, so I don’t have any objections to that.”
Now that he realized it, the tunnel actually has three exits, but one of them was accessible directly from their above-ground barracks, so it made no sense entering from there. And who knows, maybe that can attract soldiers to actually enter the tunnel that way instead of the two ways that the Federation task force would attack, thus delaying them significantly. Every seconds count here. But essentially, it really counted as two exits.
How about longer fuses then?
Michael leaned his head a little on his shoulders, pondering. The tunnel was indeed quite deep, and the charges must be at the correct location, or else the entire tunnel could collapse and burying everyone. He wasn’t sure how tough these tunnels were. These charges were designed for a heavy demolition, so to be safe, 40 seconds may be a little too short of a time. It would be totally fine if the tunnel was empty, an ideal situation that probably no one ever had in a fight like this. ”That can be a good idea.”
Michael’s eyes look up the sky for a few seconds. ”Though the first charge is still the same fuse. We want the timing to be exact. For the subsequent one, you can use longer ones. How long though? Two minutes is sufficient, do you think?” “Yes. That will work. Can’t be too long or there is more potential for them to disarm them.”
Reyna nodded, feeling a little relieved. They won’t have to murder a bunch of people who can’t even defend themselves and still proceed with their objective. Middleton can cry later especially if it works out for the better for all she cared. “Unless something happens, I’ll take the farthest storage room when we split up if you don’t mind?”
Reyna pointed at the storage room in question. it was not considerably further than the other, but still further. ”That’s fine by me. Then that leaves me with this clustered area on the other side.”
Perhaps the kitchen or the ration area or something. ”And this small path here, on the same branch.””In case something happens though, that you can’t attack conventionally. Just do what you must. If not then just retreat. We’re not mandatory for a total destruction.”
It’s better to do so, but it’s not really a must. ”But then what about this room here?”
He pointed out. It’s the one closer to Reyna’s side, but it’s not that further into her side of the tunnel branch. “Hm, I’ll secure that room then keep moving to the storage room. After the storage is done I’ll set another charge in there.”
Reyna replied after a bit of thought. “It’ll also make a good shelter from the storage room explosion if I have to use a shorter fuse or run into some trouble.” ”Well…”
It looked shallow enough to be a susceptible shelter. Not too deep, but then again heavily reliant on how it was built in the first place. If anything, he’d wait until he got into the tunnel for the proper assessment, but for now. ”Yeah I’m alright with that. We’ll see if the plan holds when in the tunnel, but or now I guess we have a plan.”
He gave her back the map she gave him, now marked with clear objectives. It was just a matter of waiting for the big moment. Was there anything inherently, or perhaps not so inherent, bad about the plan? Probably, if he thought hard enough. But going back would probably make it more complex and shatters the certainty of it. It wouldn’t help, so he let it go. He had done his best. Let the Lord decide his worth of life.
Nodding and taking back the map, Reyna took Michael’s response as a solid plan formed. Nothing to do but wait and see what happens now, and succeed. “Yeah, we will.Well, we still have a little bit of time to kill before it is time to go so what do you want to do while we wait?”
It didn’t bother Reyna she was with Michael. In fact, Michael was a saint compared to…..well the likes of Diana...or Ines...or Victoria…. Those conversations with Diana and Ines, while interesting, were very embarrassing and Victoria....well Victoria was Victoria.
What could they do? Well, they’re walking, so there’s not many options to do things. But they could talk. In fact it could be an interesting talk, if not the last they’d ever have. ”Not much, but we haven’t talked much, have we?”
Lucia and Jean’s constant influence may have affected that. ”You’re from Vinland, if I’m not mistaken. How’s life there? Is it as colorful as people think?” “That is correct. I am from Vinland. Father and momma own a company and so we are really well off back home. The countryside is really beautiful and as colorful as some say it is.”
Reyna did not expect such talk to occur, but it was a welcome change from the business talk they had before. And so, with the memories that came to her Reyna had a small smile as she spoke. “There’s horses, forest, rolling hills and a nice little town back home.” ”That sounds like a peaceful area to live in.”
That’s a rather different perspective she said. From what he had heard and previously described by his dad on his trip abroad, it was an industrial powerhouse. Skyscrapers really scraped the sky there. A place of bustling activities throughout the entire day and night, so it was a rather unique experience from the side of nature. Perhaps a countryside person, but from what she had mentioned and described, she is from a well off family. But well-off doesn’t mean being in a metropolis.”I’ve been living in the city for long, since my father works at a university in Tyrella, Edinburgh. I’ve actually toured the countryside of Edinburgh, but it’s no comparison to living by nature.”
He couldn’t help but remember the old times, a distant smile grew. ”Say, if you don’t mind sharing, what does your parent do?” “Dad is the CEO of Hall Industries, the company he built from the ground up. It makes industrial machinery and other things. Momma usually stays home, but is a great florist and cook.”
Reyna kept smiling, rather proud of her family. “He’s gone to Edinburgh too. He made a few business trips and told me it’s nice. And that explains how you’re soundin’ like you know what you’re talkin’ about.”
She couldn’t imagine Michael being really dumb now. University professors, she heard, really pushed their children to going to, well, universities. It came as no surprise to Reyna. “The city is a little different in Vinland, but it’s nice enough I guess? I don’t know, I haven’t visited many cities.” ”My father had been there. If you aren’t a fan of crowded places, or fast-paced life, it probably isn’t a place for you. But it is a sight to be seen. From what I’ve heard from my father’s story, going up the high towers of these skyscrapers can be breathtaking.”
He said, his fondness of the stories about his father’s first trip to Vinland was deep in his mind. ”Also the place he met my mother too, but that’s another story.”
But being a CEO’s daughter, and being the Hall Industries no less. He had heard of it a little, but that did not diminish her as being less than an average upper class. ”So is it why you’re in the sapper role here? Because I do partly owed that to my own education as well.” “Ya. I went to a private school and have a university already arranged for me myself. My parents were really adamant about making sure I was ready when I decided to join the military and putting me in the best place possible and, well, made me go through a month with McGriffin, so sapper it was.”
Reyna thought for a moment before speaking again. “I wanted to fight the Empire and choose to do what I wanted to do, so here I am.”
He may have a lot more in common with Reyna than he thought he did. Though her in the army is rather voluntary, not forced like Michael. Ahhh, if only the university had sent their confirmation of enrollment just a few days earlier! While it could be argued that he had indeed grown a lot throughout the war, it was still worse than a minimum wage job, or being homeless, or whatever. Totally not worth it. ”That’s nice. I was also about to be in university myself, but country calls.”
It’s also rather convenient that she had some special training. Honestly, he didn’t really care if she had a prior advantage. She’s gonna be his teammate, so anything helps. ”I wasn’t really into the whole war business myself, but at least I get to know you guys. It is a nice change of atmosphere to be talking like this.”
He nodded. Moments like this could really be a factor in making this hellhole a bit less of it, or more so. ”Say, after this, if we make it, do you want to have a tea party later? I’ve been longing for the taste of your tea the other day back in the inn. Its reputation is well-deserved.”
A big grin showed up on Reyna’s face as she nodded “Of course! Thanks for your compliment too! It’s honestly just a more sophisticated version of what most Vinland women make for their tea. I uh...unfortunately had to work with what I had at the time so it wasn’t my best.”
She loved getting praised for her tea, but Michael forgot one little detail in his words that she should correct. “Also, don’t you mean girls? From what I have seen, most of the notable people and those in the squad around are women.””Well…”
She got a point.
Though he couldn’t really discredit the other guys though. Thomas, god rest his soul. Franz. Jean. But he couldn’t deny that the ladies play a much more prominent role in shaping him, so it was still a valid point. Huh, it’s a bit funny how that happened to him. It was as if fate dealt him a hand that was probably supposed to be dealt to someone else. ”Yeah, it’s no denying that, now that I think about it.”
He curled a smile of both amusement and curiosity. Unlike last time, he was now more tolerant of these things hurled at him ”I guess I should return the favor somehow.” “You really should.”
Reyna snickered. “Sometimes I think Jean starts to want us all given how much of a romantic he is.”
She spoke in a very light tone and giggle, while Michael’s was quite indistinguishable. It was....very amusing behavior on his part.”Hmm...”