Yet again, a change here or there, but nothing significant. Enjoy.

Chapter 3: Hunter and Prey

Squad Seven wasn't given much time to celebrate after the recapturing of Bruhl. It wasn't long before news came in that the Imperial Army was assembling at Naggiar Plains, readying themselves for a single, massive push to crush Gallia's resistance.

Thankfully, there was still time before the 3rd Regiment would need to march for Naggiar. The Seven's decided to use this time to rest up and recuperate before the campaign. At least, most of them chose to do this…

At the shooting range, Marina took aim down the range with her Springfield. As she aimed at a target, 500 meters away, her concentration was suddenly broken by the arrival of Catherine.

"Still here, I see?" Catherine said. "You've been here since breakfast. Come to think of it, did you even eat this morning?"

"…What do you want…?"

"I just came to see how you were doing."


Marina turned her attention back to her target, trying not to let Catherine distract her. Slowly squeezing the trigger, Marina fired a round clean through the middle of her target. She then aimed at another target, reloaded, and fired a shot clean through the middle. This cycle repeated three more times, with each target further and further away.

"You've been doing this for the past three days now," said Catherine. "Almost non-stop, I might add."

"What, are you worried we'll run out of bullets if I keep this up?"

"That's not funny, Marina."

"I'm not laughing."

"You never do. In fact, I don't even see you smile these days."

"…If you have a point to make, make it."

"Since you asked…" Taking a seat, Catherine said, "I'm worried that you're pushing yourself too hard, Marina."

"…That's it…?"

"Marina, you're at this shooting range all the time. At any other time, I'd be impressed by your training, but not when you're risking your health like this."

"…I had a clean shot at that sniper in Bruhl. He was dead in my sights, and I hesitated to pull the trigger…"

"Don't take it so hard, Marina. Everyone freezes up at some point in battle."

"…I can't let that happen again… I won't let it happen again…"

"And somehow this is going to help you do that?"


Catherine didn't know what else she could say to Marina. There was pretty much no reaching her, so Catherine got to her feet and solemnly left the shooting range. As she did, she heard Marina fire several more shots.

"…You foolish girl…" Catherine murmured sadly.

It was mid-afternoon when Marina finished her training at the shooting range. She had spent around three boxes of ammunition, much to the ire of Fort Amatriain's Quartermaster. Still, the man knew better than to argue with Marina over the issue.

As Marina made for Squad Seven's hangar, she saw Welkin, Alicia, Rosie, Largo, Zaka and Juno all looking at a map of Gallia. Marina walked up to them to find out what was going on.

"Ah, just in time," Largo said to Marina. "The boss was about to send someone to get you."

"What's this about?" Marina asked.

"We're heading to an area east of Fouzen to search for a group of Imperial Darcsen Hunters," said Welkin. "Rosie insisted that we take this mission and, well…"

"…Understood, sir…"

Marina took a look at the map and various photos as the other officers of Squad Seven discussed how they should proceed with the operation.

East of Fouzen, a platoon-sized convoy of Imperial troops had set up a camp for the night. A few scouts and snipers were on lookout for any enemy activity.

The leader of the Darcsen Hunters, Lieutenant Dietrich, paced around a trio of transport trucks that contained dozens of Darcsen prisoners. Many were sick, wounded… or worse. But they were all scared for their lives. And it wasn't just the men; women, children and the elderly were among the prisoners.

Dietrich reeled as he approached the rear flaps of one of the trucks. To him, the scent was unbearable. He choked slightly on the air.

"It's a wonder they don't suffocate each other, isn't it?" said a snide voice.

Turning to the source, Dietrich saw a gray-haired soldier with a large sniper rifle in his hands. Dietrich was wary of this soldier; he was a Gallian turncoat who had only joined the Imperial Army recently. Even though he had helped considerably in assaulting the last two villages, there was no telling whether he could be trusted.

"I personally don't see why you bother with the old ones," said the sniper. "They'll give at most a few hours working in the mines before they're corpses."

"Our orders were to round up any Darcsens capable of labor and to bring them back to the foundries across the border," said Dietrich.

"That's my point. Those old ones are dead weight; you should get rid of them."

"You'd be smart to remember your place, Gallian. You're only here because I need all the manpower I can get to transport these… animals."

"Tch, fine by me. But when they start dying, don't say I didn't warn you about the smell. The only thing that smells worse than a Darcsen is a dead one."

"And how do I know I can trust you, hmm? You just come up out of nowhere and ask to join us? How do I know you're not a spy?"


The turncoat soldier got to his feet and strode away from the transports. Dietrich grimaced watched as the sniper disappeared into the shadows. He didn't even know this one's name, but knew he had to keep an eye on him.

The wind whistled over a ravine to the east of Fouzen the next day. The ravine was littered with stone formations, arranged like a maze.

Over his radio, Welkin said, "Alicia, any sign of the enemy yet?"

Alicia's voice said over the radio, "Nothing yet, Welkin."

A second later, Rosie said into her radio, "Are you sure they'll come this way, boss?"

"I'm sure," Welkin answered. "This pass is the only road to Ironfield Village. And with so many places to hide, we should be able to ambush them easily."

"You said they'll have Darcsen prisoners?" asked Edy.

"It's likely. Everyone is to watch their aim, especially around any transport vehicles the enemy might have. We're here to help the Darcsens, not harm them. If there are any prisoners, they are to be protected as a top priority."

Crouching behind a set of bushes, Marina watched the road through her sniper scope. Catherine was stationed a few meters from Marina. The EWI veteran took several glances at Marina as they watched the road. She was a lot paler than usual. She hadn't been taking care of herself like Catherine had asked.

Suddenly, Marina noticed that Catherine was staring at her. Marina glared back at Catherine, who sheepishly returned to watching the road.

But as Marina set her eye back to the sniper scope, Catherine said, "Marina, are you alright?"


"How are you holding up?"


Catherine realized that Marina didn't want to talk, so she didn't ask anything else.

An Imperial medium tank rolled forward at the front of the column, escorted by four shock troopers. Behind the tank, the three transport trucks rolled on under escort of the other Darcsen Hunters. Two mortar tanks rolled behind the transports. At the rear of the convoy was another medium tank, in which Dietrich sat in the turret.

Dietrich was in a bad mood at that time. The Gallian sniper in his crew had seemingly disappeared in the night. This worried Dietrich, as it was likely that the sniper was a spy. If that were true, his position would've been compromised by now. And considering his forces were in a narrow corridor, he'd be a sitting duck.

Suddenly, a voice came in over the tank's radio. "Lieutenant Dietrich, are you listening to this frequency?"

Recognizing the voice of the Gallian turncoat, Dietrich flicked on his radio and said, "You! Where the hell are you, you sniveling weasel?"

"Right now, I'm about half a klick ahead of you at the top of this pass, looking down at your little convoy. I'm also looking down at a platoon-sized Gallian force waiting to ambush you and your men in the ravine ahead. They're hiding in the rocks."

Snarling, Dietrich said, "I should've guessed you were a spy, you rat!"

"Jumping to conclusions a little quickly, aren't we, lieutenant? If I were a spy, why would I be telling you about the ambush?"

Dietrich grimaced at this. The sniper had a valid point. Dietrich then said, "What are you trying to pull, Gallian?"

"The Gallian force in the ravine ahead of you is none other than Squad Seven of the 3rd Regiment. Let's just say I have a beef with their commanding officer, and I'd appreciate seeing someone put him into the dirt."

"So you intend to use us to do it?"

"If you want to think of it that way, sure. Of course, you could always turn your forces around and flee the area, if you're not up for the risk."

Dietrich snarled at these words. The Gallian sniper intended to use him and his forces as a bullet sponge. Still, Dietrich had strict orders to ransack Ironfield Village. He wasn't about to turn tail and flee.

"I'm not about to run away just because of a motley group of peasants!" Dietrich growled.

"I thought as much," said the sniper. "But, if you want my advice, I suggest that you put your transports at the front of your formation once you enter the ravine."


"The leader of Squad Seven's a real Darcsen-lover. He won't risk hurting them if he can help it. Use the trucks as shields against their tanks and lancers, and shell the enemy with mortar fire. You should be able to thin out their ranks a bit before they reach you, and they'll have to cross a considerable distance to get up close to your tanks."


"You can do things your way if you want, of course. That's just how I'd do it. It's up to you, Dietrich. In the meantime, I'll be watching the battle from up here."

Static filled Dietrich's headset as the radio connection was severed. Dietrich took a moment to ponder the Gallian's suggestion.

A few minutes later, Alicia saw an Imperial medium tank exiting the northern pass. It was flanked by at least four shock troopers.

Using her radio, Alicia said, "Enemy sighted. One tank with troop support. Wait… there's more. I see two– no, three transport trucks. Two mortars and another tank bringing up the rear. At least forty soldiers total."

As Alicia finished reporting her sightings, Welkin said, "Alright everyone, get ready. Once they enter the rocks, we attack. Remember, watch your fire."

Rosie cocked her Mags MXX as she hid behind a large boulder next to Vyse and Aika. As Vyse readied his machine gun, he said, "Time to dance!"

"You said it, Vyse!" Aika replied.

As the rest of Squad Seven readied themselves, Alicia continued to watch the approaching convoy. Then, to her surprise, the transport trucks began to shift positions, moving in front of the tanks and infantry.

Switching on her radio, Alicia said, "Welkin, something's wrong."

"What is it?" asked Welkin.

"The transports… they're moving in front of the tanks."


The transports moved so they were perpendicular to the rocks, providing a wide amount of coverage for the Imperial troops. Behind the trucks, the mortars shifted their cannons upwards.

"Maybe they're just stopping for a break," said Rosie.

"I dunno," Largo added. "I've got a bad feeling about this."

As if on cue, the Imperial mortars fired, sending high explosive rounds arcing through the air at Squad Seven's position.

"INCOMING!" Edy screamed as she and Homer dashed away from their hiding place. Seconds later, the boulder they were hiding behind was demolished.

The Sevens scattered to the oncoming rounds. They were now exposed to the enemy, something Welkin precisely didn't want.

As she pressed herself behind a boulder, Rosie shouted, "What the hell? How'd they know we were here?"

"How should I know?" Largo bellowed.

"Squad Seven, engage the enemy!" Welkin shouted over the radio. "They're looking for a fight, so we might as well give them one! Zaka, take your team and flank them from the east side!"

"On my way!" said Zaka. The Shamrock moved out to flank the Imperial force.

"Everybody else, advance through the rocks! We need to get in closer to those mortars!"

"You got it, boss!" Rosie shouted. "Vyse, Aika, follow me!"

Rosie ran hard from boulder to boulder with Vyse and Aika in tow as shells rained down. The three were quickly joined by Juno, Elysse, and Aisha. On the other side of the road, Largo led Edy, Homer, Jane, Ted, and Nancy through the maze of stone. At the rear of Squad Seven's formation, the Edelweiss rolled forward, followed by Alicia, Melville, Dallas, Hector, and Claudia.

From her position, Marina aimed at the enemy formation. The Imperials were doing an unusually good job hiding behind the trucks, and Marina assumed anyone inside the trucks was a friendly. After a moment, one Imperial foolishly stuck his head out to take a potshot at Rosie's group. Centering her crosshairs, Marina shot him in the head. The rest of the Imperials took cover to avoid being sniped.

Rosie's group was quick to reach the end of the stone maze, but was quickly met by a hail of bullets from one of the tanks. The group ducked behind the rocks, unable to take potshots. They couldn't risk hitting the transports.

Rosie suddenly heard a number of screams. Turning, she realized they were coming from the transport trucks. It was the Darcsen prisoners. Rosie wanted to rush in and help them so badly, but knew it would be an early grave for her if she did.

Inside his tank, Dietrich laughed as he said, "Looks like that weasel was right after all." He then said through the radio, "Keep shelling their positions! Blast them out of the rocks and finish them off!"

Two more mortar rounds flew out, smashing into the rocks at the end of the maze. Aika shrieked as pieces of shrapnel tore into her left shoulder and leg. Vyse was the first to aid her, pulling her away from the battle.


"Aika, baby! It's alright now!" Vyse shouted. Fina showed up soon to patch Aika up.

Rosie fired a burst from her submachine gun, trying to suppress the enemy. But with the Darcsens so close, she had to pick her shots carefully.

Ducking back behind cover, Rosie shouted over the radio, "We can't hit them from here! Boss, we need cover, now!"

"Hang in there, Sevens!" Welkin shouted. "I'm almost there!"

On the other side of the road, Jane roared as she fired wildly at the Imperials, but she dealt more damage to the trucks than to the enemy.

"Die, Imps! DIE!" Jane screeched.

Grabbing her by the collar, Largo yanked Jane back as he shouted, "Watch your fire, psycho! You're gonna hit a friendly!"

From behind the trucks, the Imperials shot back at Squad Seven. One soldier fired his ZM MP as he shouted, "Keep them pinned down! Keep them– AGH!"

A sniper round from Marina hit the soldier in the head, killing him. But seconds later, Marina saw an enemy sniper fire back at her, though the shot missed and hit a tree. Marina ducked her head down as she moved to a new position. Catherine followed her as she moved.

"Well, this wasn't in the plan," Catherine said almost jokingly.

"…Keep moving…"

In the ravine, the rest of Squad Seven suppressed the enemy as the Edelweiss rolled forward. Looking to the Edelweiss, Rosie shouted, "About damn time! We're getting blown to bits out here!"

"Be ready to move in on my mark, Sevens!"

As the Edelweiss raised its cannon, Nancy screamed as she took a bullet to her thigh, dropping her to the ground. As her rifle hit the ground, it discharged a round, nearly hitting Alicia in her side. Alicia saw as the bullet impacted in front of her on the Edelweiss' armor, and turned to see Nancy was being helped by Largo.

"S– Sorry!" Nancy shouted sheepishly. Alicia smiled back, assuring Nancy that she was unharmed.

The Edelweiss fired a smoke round out in front of the transports, engulfing the Imperial troops in a thick haze. As the Imperials choked on the air, Rosie shouted, "Let's get in there, guys!"

Rosie was the first to dash out at the enemy, followed by many of the others. As bullets rained around her, Rosie zigzagged left and right to avoid being hit. Within about ten seconds, Rosie had sided up against one of the transports, and was quickly joined by Juno and Aisha.

"You both alright?" Rosie said to Juno and Aisha.

"We're fine," Juno replied. "What now?"

"After me, kiddos!"

Rosie flicked a switch on her Mags, lighting a flame in front of her Flame Flail. She then swung around the rear of the transport and sprayed a pair of Imperial soldiers with fire, incinerating them. One tried to grab Rosie as he burned, but she swiftly kicked the Imperial away.

But at that moment, Rosie heard a cry come from another Imperial. This one rushed at her with a bayonet. Rosie pulled the trigger for her Flame Flail, but nothing happened. She was out of fuel. Before she could react, a bullet struck the Imperial in the head. He fell onto his back as he died.

As Rosie saw the Imperial perish, a voice over the radio said, "…Target eliminated…"

Realizing Marina had saved her life, Rosie said, "Thanks, Marina."

On the other side of the transport wall, Jane readied her Flame Flail as she dashed around the corner. She howled, "BURN!" as she sprayed wildly, engulfing two soldiers in flames.

But at that moment, one of the Imperial tanks aimed in Jane's direction and fired a shell into the ground in front of her. The explosion blew Jane off her feet as three pieces of shrapnel dug into her.

Jane howled in rage as Edy grabbed her and dragged the crazed shock trooper back behind the transport. Jane clearly didn't want to stop fighting, but she was too wounded to continue.

"Damn… Imps…!"

"Will you stop squirming?" Edy shouted. "Homer, do something!"

"I'm trying, Miss Edy!" Homer said as he tried to apply Ragnaid to Jane's wounds.

At that moment, another pair of Imperial shock troopers ran out to attack Edy and Homer. Edy, not expecting it, shrieked in panic. But as one of the shock troopers was about to pull the trigger, a rifle round struck him in the head. The other trooper, surprised by this, momentarily lost his situational awareness. It was a fatal mistake; Homer used the time to pull out his pistol and shot the man in the chest three times, killing him.

Back in the rocks, Welkin watched as Squad Seven began to close in on the Imperial force. Outside the Edelweiss, Alicia said, "Welkin, we can't get to the mortars with those tanks in the way!"

"Kreis, move us forward," Welkin said to his pilot. "Let's take them out!"

Alicia watched as the Edelweiss moved forward. Then, she heard a familiar voice over the radio as it said, "Got you right where I want you, Gunther."

"What the?" said Welkin, also having heard the voice on his radio.

"See you in hell, boss."

From her position, Marina's eyes widened as she heard the familiar voice. She couldn't have mistaken it; it was Cezary.

Suddenly, a loud boom sounded through the ravine. Alicia shrieked as she was blown back by an explosion on the Edelweiss' left side. Pushing herself up, Alicia looked in horror as she saw a hole in the side of the Edelweiss' turret.

"W– Welkin…?" Alicia stammered, unable to believe what she was seeing. "WELKIN!"

Alicia scrambled to climb up the side of the Edelweiss, aided by Dallas. Reaching the top of the tank, Alicia pulled open the hatch. Looking inside, Alicia was met by a horrible sight. Welkin, though alive, had shrapnel dug into his left side in several places. Blood was seeping from the injuries.

"MEDIC! MEDIC!" Alicia screamed. "Welkin, hang on!"

At that moment, crouched next to one of the Imperial transports, Juno looked on at the wounded Edelweiss in silent terror. Alicia's cries for a medic meant one thing: Welkin had been hit. She couldn't see how bad the damage was from her position, and it took every last bit of restraint she had to stop herself from running to Welkin's side, an action that would surely result in a quick death for her. Juno shut her eyes painfully; all she could do was pray that Welkin would be alright.

Welkin grunted as he looked down at Kreis and said, "Get us… behind the rocks…"

"Y– Yes sir!" Kreis said in a panic.

The Edelweiss began to move in reverse. At that moment, a second bang ripped through the ravine, and a second explosion rocked the Edelweiss, blowing a hole in its plating. Thankfully, the damage wasn't enough to stop the Edelweiss from safely retreating back into the rocks.

From behind a large rock, Marina saw where the shot had been fired from, and aimed at the location. There was an Imperial helmet sticking out of the bushes. Marina fired. Her shot went clean through the helmet, but to Marina's shock, it spun in circles. It wasn't affixed to a man's head.

Then, over the radio, Marina heard a laugh as Cezary said, "Nice try, Wulfstan. A little trick I read up on. I think your old man invented it."

Marina grimaced to this taunt. It was true; Marina's father, Marcus, had invented the "helmet decoy" trick during EWI while battling another sniper. He had used it to locate his enemy more easily. Now, Marina had fallen prey to the same trick.

As Marina slid open the loading chamber on her rifle, Cezary said over the radio, "Too slow, Wulfstan."

Marina looked up just in time to see a heavy sniper round fly at her. The round slammed into the rock in front of her and exploded. Marina screamed as she was blown back by a shower of rocks and shrapnel.

Her ears ringing, Marina lay on her side, trying to reach for her rifle. She was bruised, dizzy, and had a few cuts, but was otherwise fine. Seconds later, Catherine came running up, though Marina couldn't understand her muffled words. After a few seconds, though, Marina's hearing began to return.


Relieved to know that Marina was alright, Catherine said, "Oh, thank God! Come on, we have to move, now!"

"…My rifle… where is it?"

Catherine picked up Marina's Springfield and handed it to her. It had a few nicks in its structure, but was mostly undamaged. Marina took hold of the rifle.

Suddenly, Marina heard Cezary's voice from Catherine's radio. His grunts and murmurs suggested he was having difficulty with something. Marina figured that Cezary was likely having mechanical problems.

In his hiding space on the western cliffs, Cezary hissed, "Come on, you piece of crap! URGH, DAMMIT!"

Cezary's sniper cannon had become completely inoperable. The casing to his last round had become jammed in the loading chamber, preventing the rifle from being reloaded. As if that weren't bad enough, Cezary was scowling over how his round hadn't flown straight. Technically, he had missed Marina by a few inches.

Cezary then heard something he never expected over his radio: laughter. Marina was laughing at him, something she had never done before. For anyone

"You missed, Cezary," said Marina.

Squatting next to Marina, Catherine was stunned to see Marina laughing. It was something she hadn't seen from her since Marina was a little girl. Catherine smiled at seeing this, but Marina quickly noticed and stopped her chuckles. Catherine, however, didn't stop smiling.

In his hiding spot, Cezary was infuriated at having one of his previous insults thrown back at him. But with his rifle jammed, he couldn't continue to fight. His only option was to flee the area.

At that moment, Cezary turned upon hearing another tank cannon being fired. The Shamrock, accompanied by Nadine, Wavy, Audrey, Coby, and Freesia, was moving in on the Darcsen Hunters' east flank.

The Shamrock's shot slammed into the treads of Dietrich's tank, blowing them to scrap. The turret of Dietrich's tank rotated and fired back at the Shamrock, but the speedy tank evaded the shot. Seconds later, a Lancaar round from Audrey flew at the tank. Dietrich howled as his tank burst into flames, incinerating him.

Within a few seconds, another Lancaar round from Largo destroyed the second Imperial tank. Shots from Squad Seven's lancers and the Shamrock quickly turned the mortars into piles of scrap. Cezary watched as the last of the Darcsen Hunters were taken down. None of them had attempted to surrender.

Yet again, Squad Seven was the victor.

Scowling, Cezary flicked on his radio and said, "Consider yourself lucky, Wulfstan. It won't happen twice."

With that, Cezary crawled away from the scene, so as not to expose himself.

As she watched the rest of Squad Seven as they freed the Darcsens, Marina wiped her forehead with the back of her hand. She had had a brush with death only a few minutes ago, something that made her feel both alive, and very much mortal. She had only survived by the skin of her teeth.

Later that evening, Squad Seven was enjoying themselves in Ironfield Village. The townsfolk, grateful that they had been saved from the Darcsen Hunters, had prepared a large dinner for the Sevens. In addition, somewhat to the squad's detriment, the villagers had also brought out a significant supply of various liquors. This was a disappointment to some of the younger Sevens, who were too young to drink alcohol.

As she helped herself to a bowl of stew, Marina looked around at the many Darcsen prisoners Squad Seven had saved. Not a one had been killed in the battle, though some had been injured. Seeing such success warmed Marina's normally-cold heart.

Then, to her surprise, she heard Ted Ustinov come up behind her and say, "You were really laughing, Marina?"

Marina groaned as she turned to face Ted. The jokester had made it a goal of his to make her smile, something that thoroughly annoyed her. He probably had heard her laugh over the radio during the battle.

"Don't try and deny it, Marina," Ted said jovially. "I heard you laughing in that battle!"

"That you did, Teddy," said Melville. "And to think all it took was a shell blowing up in her face!"

Ted and Melville laughed at this, though Marina made a point not to join in. But many of the others had heard Ted and Melville, and now were joining in on the conversation. They all began questioning Marina on whether she had actually laughed.

After a moment, Marina stared at Ted and said, "Maybe I did, Ted. But I still think your jokes are crap."

As Marina got up to leave, Ted's face turned to one of disappointment. "Jeez… that's just cold, Marina…"

The other Sevens were left to laugh at Ted as Marina walked off. She made her way through the crowds of people and headed toward the inn. Unsurprisingly to Marina, Juno was standing outside, listening to Welkin's voice while he was communicating with Captain Varrot. A number of the Sevens knew of Juno being an old friend of Welkin's, but Marina was one of the few who knew that she had feelings for him. Time and again, Juno had gone to Catherine for advice; Marina had chosen not to speak of it since she didn't really care about it.

Ignoring Juno, Marina entered the inn. Welkin, who was seated in front of a long-range radio, had several bandages covering his left side, but Fina had told him the wounds would heal quickly.

"Our mission was a success, Captain Varrot," said Welkin. "The Darcsen Hunter group as been eliminated and their prisoners were freed with zero casualties."

"Good work, Lieutenant Gunther," Varrot said over the radio. "When your squad returns, I'll want to hear more of the details."

"Captain, there's something I need to discuss with you. Right now."

"What is it?"

Welkin sighed, and then said, "The Darcsen Hunters… Cezary Regard was working with them."

"What? Are you sure?"

"Yes, ma'am," Marina said, interrupting Welkin. "He was assisting the Darcsen Hunters, and caused significant damage to the Edelweiss during the battle. Presently, he is alive and unaccounted for."


"Corporal Wulfstan," said Varrot. "Please continue. The more we can learn the better."

Taking a seat, Marina began to tell Captain Varrot everything she knew about the battle, focusing on Cezary's involvement. After around ten minutes, Marina was finished with her report.

Sighing, Varrot said, "This is unfortunate. Cezary Regard is a dangerous man to be working with the Empire."

"What do you mean?" asked Welkin.

"Like you, Lieutenant Gunther, Cezary had the credentials necessary to be an officer in the Gallian army. The only thing that kept him from such a position was his disrespect for his superiors. He got continually bumped down in rank because he got into arguments with superior officers, including myself."

"…What are you getting at, Captain?" Marina asked.

"Despite his attitude, Cezary Regard scored highly in battlefield tactics. He'd probably be a match even for you, Lieutenant."

"That would explain how they managed to draw us in so well," said Welkin. "Using the prisoners as a living shield… morality aside, it was an effective tactic. He knew I wouldn't risk their safety."

"Regrettably, we cannot afford to concern ourselves with him. There is still the upcoming Naggiar campaign, something I will need Squad Seven for. Lieutenant, as soon as you are able, you are to return to Randgriz. Varrot out."

The radio went silent. Welkin turned to Marina and said, "Marina–"

"I'm fine, sir," Marina said.

As Marina went for her room, Welkin said, "Catherine said you haven't been catching up on sleep lately. Please, try to get some rest up there. I can't have you fainting on me in battle."

"I'll be–"

"That's an order, corporal. Dismissed."

"…Yes sir…"

Although irked that Catherine had told Welkin about her sleepless nights, Marina decided to comply with the order and headed for her room.

End of Chapter 3

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