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Chapter 16

The Little Prince in the Ossuary



Translator/Editor: Ryuu

Discord: https://dsc.gg/wetried

◈ The Little Prince in the Ossuary

00016 <-- The Little Prince of the Ossuary -->


#High Risk, High Return (3), Paso Robles

Despite the boy's comforting words, Yura was visibly disheartened. It had been like this throughout their journey. It was understandable, given the crisis they had just navigated due to her mistake. Fortunately, there were no injuries.

Nevertheless, the increase in ‘Combat Fatigue’ was minimal. Gyeoul had taken on the most dangerous roles. Much effort had been made to soothe and reassure.

At the intersection of Riverside Avenue heading south and 13th Street to the east, the boy pointed to a small shop nearby and suggested,

"Shall we take a short break there?"

"Are we not pressed for time?"

The demeanor of the other two men had become more polite than before. The shift in their respect and affection was evident.

"I think it'll be fine. Probably. And there's something we need to take care of now anyway."

"Something we need to take care of?"

Instead of answering, the boy pressed himself against the wall. A sign was hanging loosely. The front of the store was made of glass, with several tables set inside. The menu indicated it was a pizza place.

As they opened the door, a bell tinkled, sharp and alerting. If there were any mutant variants inside, the sound would draw them out, but it was quiet. The boy signaled that it was safe, and the three of them entered in succession, visibly tense. To put them at ease, the boy pulled out a chair with a noise.

"Please, have a seat."

The group hesitated but followed. The boy opened a duffel bag one of the men was carrying, taking out cans of food they had brought with them. No separate dishes were needed. Forks and knives were already on the tables. They just needed to dust them off.

"Haven't meals always been scarce? It's a rare opportunity. Eat your fill."

To the refugees, a sense of fullness was a distant memory. Park Jin-seok and An Je-jung exchanged glances. It was communication that transcended generations.

"The task you mentioned earlier…"

"Yeah, what else could it be? It's going to be hard to distribute it evenly when we arrive, given the watchful eyes. It won't be easy to give more just to you. Flexibility is necessary in life, isn't it?"

Je-jung chuckled, his bald head gleaming.

"Ha, the young leader certainly has the qualities of a leader. Indeed, flexibility is important."

The two men happily opened their cans, prioritizing meat. As if to prove their masculinity. In contrast, Yura sat gloomily. Her symptoms were mild for now, but if left unchecked, they could lead to permanent conditions, like depression or combat fatigue. Gyeoul, with a feigned smile, pushed a can towards Yura and opened it before she could refuse.

"Eat. It'd be a waste otherwise."

"…I don't deserve it."


What would be the right action? What expression should he wear? After rummaging through his memories, the boy picked up a fork and dipped it into the thick broth surrounding a piece of meat. Such meat was usually cheap, but it was a luxury for the refugees.

Sure enough, Yura swallowed her saliva upon smelling it. Gulp. Her face turned red.

"Ah… this, this is…"

"Say 'ah.'"


"Come on, noona."


Je-jung and Jin-seok, who had been stuffing their faces, froze stiff. It was shocking to hear the boy, who had effortlessly dispatched mutant variants, address someone as noona. It would not have been surprising if they were taken aback.

This side of him was perhaps closer to his true nature, but revealing that was another matter.

A leader who is too superior and inhuman can easily gain authority, but it's problematic if it's always like that.

'He’s creating illusions at will.'

This person is different from us. He's extraordinary, not quite human. If this belief intensifies, it turns a person into an idol, creating unrealistic expectations.

He is different from us. He will always succeed. It's impossible, but he can do anything.

That near-faithful conviction is a double-edged sword. The moment it fails, the moment that faith collapses, people will pounce like starving dogs.

Therefore, it's sometimes necessary to show an ordinary side. Pretending to have flawless leadership is only fitting when no other means can provide hope to people.

Finding that balance is difficult.

Yura flustered, but Gyeoul didn't retract his hand. Her face, unwashed and dirty, still visibly blushed from embarrassment. It was too early for romantic feelings.


"Well done."

Seeing her close her eyes tightly and accept the food, Gyeoul quietly smiled. Yura, now upset for a different reason, panicked at the sight of Gyeoul offering another piece. She waved her hands in refusal.

"I-I'll eat it myself now!"

"It's a penalty for worrying me."


Now was a good time. Je-jung and Jin-seok chuckled lowly. Yura glanced at them with teary eyes, then resigned herself to eat quietly. Despite his calculated actions, Gyeoul felt a sense of joy. She was older, but her sullen appearance was adorable.


He wasn't sure himself.

Eating was indeed slower for her than for the men. Especially if one hadn't had a full meal in months. In the meantime, the men had each polished off five cans. Gyeoul was so concerned, he commented,

"I did say to eat your fill, but I'm worried you might get sick."

"Hey, Captain. I may look like this, but I've served in the Marines."

Je-jung's playful response. It was a deflection to cover the awkwardness. His reaction was better than the tense one earlier. Personal traits probably played a part. Meaning, strategic behavior wasn't exclusive to players.

Gyeoul nodded.

"If you say so, but there's still some time, so feel free to eat more. We'll have to divide it up once we arrive anyway."

Truth be told, it was a bit risky. Mutant variants are more active at night, and using lights would make them more visible. They had to arrive before it got completely dark. However, he didn't show his concern. Unless there was a change in plans, there was no need to worry.

They spent about 40 minutes before moving on again.

Paso Robles is bisected by Highway 101 running east-west, and 13th Street within the city crosses it in the form of an overpass. Along the open view to either side, abandoned vehicles and wandering variants were visible.

All the traffic lights at the first intersection past the overpass were out. The power supply had been cut off. While it would be necessary to continue power supply for any survivors who hadn't evacuated, the government was more concerned about the risk of fires or accidents due to short circuits. It was something heard on the radio broadcasts. Given the abundance of abandoned electronic devices, accidents were likely.

There were no major incidents. Perhaps due to the sudden firefight at the church, the group was excessively cautious and felt fear at every sight of a cross. They encountered three crosses before even covering 1 kilometer past the overpass: two Baptist churches and one Catholic church. All their doors were open. There were a few wandering mutants around. Before they could notice them, the boy took them down with precise shots to their heads.

Using vehicles as cover while moving was a good strategy, but there was always a chance of mutants hiding beneath them. It was safest to stay low and look far ahead occasionally. Their combat boots were sturdy and tough, so a bite wouldn't do much harm. Still, complacency was dangerous.

"There's Daniel Lewis Middle School."

Not long after passing the church, Gyeoul pointed towards a building with a notably large tree casting shade over its entrance. A yellow sign depicting an adult leading a child across the road read, ‘SCHOOL XING.’

Crossing over a truck blocking the way, indeed, a new sign appeared. It bore the name of the school. Below it, a yellow square with an orange border announced the test schedule, now an obsolete concern.

Unlike Korean schools, it wasn't surrounded by walls, which perhaps explained the presence of a few mutants in the open corridors. Gyeoul could have easily dealt with them, but it was important for the group's growth. He singled out Yura, who seemed particularly vulnerable, for the first task. The other two were assigned to guard the rear and flanks.

"Can you take a shot at their heads from this distance?"


Her response lacked confidence. The nearest group was about 30 meters away, consisting of five individuals who hadn't noticed us yet. They seemed preoccupied with something inside the building, meandering aimlessly.

Considering the typical engagement range for a rifle, even a novice should be able to land a hit at this distance. There was no guarantee of a headshot, though.

Gyeoul opened the skill screen, allocating some of the experience points earned from the church encounter to ‘Training.’ The progress bar filled up, and her rank increased to 7. This was just the entry level for a specialist, sufficient for now.

She reached Level 8 in ‘Close Combat’ and Level 9 in ‘Firearms Mastery,’ pushing both near Level 10.

There was still some leeway left, but given the unpredictable nature of this world, it was wise to keep some experience points in reserve, to not be powerless in the face of unforeseen events.

‘Training’ was a leadership skill that enhanced the learning efficiency of others when acting together or teaching. Gyeoul directed Yura,

"Think of this as a good opportunity to gain experience. Hold your gun. Even if something goes wrong, I'll handle it, so don't worry."

If an attacked mutant doesn't die instantly, it alerts its companions. This meant he would intervene immediately if needed. After much reassurance, Yura hesitantly held up her rifle.

Her stance was awkward, clearly untrained. It would be remarkable if just a few days of learning could be applied directly in a real situation. Knowing something in theory doesn't mean one can do it in practice. Gyeoul adjusted the stock for her and pressed down on her shoulder, pointing out her erratic breathing.

"Your breathing is too rough."

Her breath was too quick, causing the rifle to bob up and down, and her grip on the fore-end was trembling from too much tension, making accurate aiming impossible.

"Take your finger off the trigger. There's no rush. Even if it takes a while, shoot when you're ready."

He applied more pressure on her shoulder, comforting her repeatedly. Gradually, Yura's breathing steadied. She squinted one eye and aligned the sights.

The spin of a bullet does affect its trajectory, not by making it rise and fall, but by maintaining a gentle parabolic arc. Contrary to some explanations, the rotation doesn't cause the bullet to oscillate vertically. The slight elevation of the barrel at the point of aim means that, within a certain range, the bullet will hit above the aim point.

While explaining this, Gyeoul wasn't expecting her to grasp all the details. He aimed for her to feel psychologically at ease. Listening to a somewhat lengthy explanation helped her relax. Indeed, her shaking had almost stopped, her focus diverted to listening.

"Good. You're much steadier now and your stance is excellent."

He didn't skimp on praise, crucial for building her confidence. Overdoing it might have the opposite effect, but Yura was too preoccupied to notice.

Feeling prepared, Gyeoul gave the go-ahead.

"Now you can place your finger on the trigger. Switch the firing mode to burst. Aim at the leftmost mutant. When you're ready, just shoot. You don't have to tell me. I'll take care of any issues, so don't worry. Understood?"

"Understood, Captain."

Upon receiving her reply, Gyeoul aimed his rifle, ready to support her. Thanks to ‘Firearms Mastery,’ his actions were exceedingly swift.

Yura fired.

The muffled report of the gunshot, subdued by the suppressor, made a stifled noise. The targeted mutant jerked as if hit by a hammer, its blood splattering against the wall in a dark smear. Though not a direct hit to the center of the head, one of the three bullets shattered its spine.

The mutant collapsed. The others turned at the sound, confused. They hadn't spotted us yet.

Startled by the sudden movement, Yura froze, but Gyeoul was there to reassure her.

"It's okay, it's okay. Don't worry. You did really well. Now, aim for the leftmost one again. We'll take them down in order. Take a deep breath, calm down, and shoot when ready."

After about twenty seconds, the burst of gunfire repeated, less successfully this time. The targets were those that had turned towards their fallen comrade, presenting their sides. A shot through the temples would have been ideal, but one bullet missed, and the remaining two destroyed the cheekbone and jaw.

Yura gasped at the sight of the half-hanging jaw of the mutant as it attempted to turn towards them. She stiffened, realizing it had spotted us. Just then, a bullet from Gyeoul's rifle pierced its forehead, causing the head to snap back and the body to collapse, convulsing.

"See? I can handle minor mistakes. Don't be afraid. Just calmly try again, and you'll get used to it."

"Yes, yes…"

Swallowing nervously, Yura was drenched in sweat despite the cool weather. Gyeoul glanced at her, thinking he should bring a handkerchief next time. Interactions like these, even with an AI, were evaluated and rewarded by the control AI.

The shooting continued until all seven mutants were down. Yura's accuracy was about fifty percent. Gyeoul intervened whenever she failed. The mutants never realized their presence until the end.

"Well done, Yura-ssi. For a first-timer, you did incredibly well. Take a break now."

"Thank you, Captain. I… I feel a bit more confident now."

Aware of the support she had received, Yura smiled broadly. Even behind her gas mask, her eyes smiled warmly. Gyeoul nodded and continued,

"Next are the five in the center of the lawn. It would be great if Jin-seok could handle them."

"Let's give it a try."

Jin-seok's response carried a hint of rivalry, possibly against Gyeoul. Having watched from the rear, he knew what to do and managed more easily than Yura.

Lastly, Je-jung, who claimed to be a marine, took his turn. His shots were more relaxed compared to the previous two, but his accuracy was surprisingly lower. Perhaps overconfidence led to his mistakes.

"Ha, my apologies. Seems I've been out of practice for too long..."

Je-jung scratched his head awkwardly. It's possible his marine background was an embellishment. Not a significant issue, though.

Looking at the sky, it was getting darker, but there was still over an hour of light left. They were operating under the EENT (End of Evening Nautical Twilight) timeline announced during the briefing at the start of their mission.

EENT refers to the time after sunset when the sky is completely devoid of light. Even after the sun dips below the horizon, it doesn't immediately turn pitch black. Knowing the exact moment twilight fades is crucial.

"Now, we'll start searching from the first building. I'll lead, so please follow me."

Daniel Lewis Middle School consisted of several single-story buildings. None were particularly large, so Gyeoul estimated that they could search each one in about 10 to 20 minutes.


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Chapter 16

The Little Prince in the Ossuary


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