Sunny had never seen a few words crush a man's spirit so thoroughly.

...Except for maybe himself, when Nephis had spoken his True Name and commanded him to leave her for dead on the Forgotten Shore.

The soldier managed to remain standing, but he looked like a marionette with its strings cut. All light was extinguished from his eyes. He remained motionless for a while, and then turned slightly, throwing a forlorn glance at the small, battered fleet behind him.

Sunny could imagine how he felt. After surviving the cataclysmic destruction of the siege capital, these people weathered untold horrors to make it this far alive. What had kept them going was probably the hope that salvation was drawing closer and closer. And now, when they almost reached the destination, that hope was cruelly crushed.

He sighed.

"It just happened a few days ago. The news would not have reached you. My people and I are the only ones who survived."

The soldier looked down, silent.

Eventually, he asked:

"If I may ask. What are your plans now, sir?"

Sunny looked at him with a deadpan expression.

"My orders are to proceed to the Erebus Field siege capital to rendezvous with another cohort of the First Irregular Company."

Suddenly, a tentative spark appeared in the soldier's eyes.

"Master Sunless, sir. Will you consider..."

Sunny knew what he was going to say. It was not that hard to guess.

...He wanted to laugh.

In fact, he almost did. It took a lot of self-control to remain outwardly calm. A bitter, familiar, unhinged laugh got stuck somewhere in his throat.

Of course, Sunny knew. The soldier was going to ask if the Irregulars would escort the civilian convoy to safety. Why wouldn't he? They had persevered for the last week without any Awakened to protect the handful of transports from the rampaging Nightmare Creatures. And even though their hope of sailing to safety aboard the Ariadne was gone, there was an actual Master standing in front of them.

And not just any Master, but one of the most deadly ones in the First Army, accompanied by a cohort of absolute elites. The Irregulars were the cream of the crop of human forces.

Surely, they wouldn't leave defenseless civilians behind.


The problem was that this decision was not an easy one. Heavily armored and exceedingly maneuverable Rhino could potentially make the thousand-kilometer journey to Mount Erebus. The flimsy and damaged civilian transports, however... their ability to traverse the mountains was doubtful. At the very least, they would slow down and limit the versatile APC.

Which would put its crew in danger.

By agreeing to take charge of the convoy, Sunny would not only make his task several times harder, but also drastically increase the chance of his own soldiers dying.

That was why he wanted to laugh.

In Sunny's last conversation with Verne, the stalwart Master had told him that it was impossible to get hundreds of civilians through the mountains alive. Back then, Sunny had responded by saying that people could not know what was impossible until they tried it.

And now, he had to either leave these people to die...

Or eat his own words, and put his money where his mouth was.

'Oh, this is a good one. This one is great! I see you, [Fated]...'

The soldier's words died on his lips as he watched Sunny's unmoving face. Sunny remained silent.

So, what was he supposed to do?

Was he supposed to take responsibility for hundreds of refugees, at the expense of his soldiers and Professor Obel? Or follow cold logic and do what had to be done, abandoning them to fate? No, but there was no need to hide behind words. There was no fate, in this case, only death.

What was the right choice?

A strange smile appeared on his face.

"What would a man of conviction do? Ah, a man of conviction would have probably stayed at LO49 and died. How complicated."

Despite his aspiration to find the elusive thing called conviction and grow stronger through it, Sunny had not had any success in that regard yet. He still stood for nothing and was as unmoored as he had been at the start of it. Some people might have had an unwavering moral compass, but he was not one of them. Sunny mostly acted on a whim and pursued his own narrow interests. In fact, simply hearing someone speak about morality always filled him with suspicion.

So, he did not have a straightforward answer to what was the right thing to do in this situation.


However. Sunny might not have known what he believed in - if there even was such a thing - but he knew what he despised very well. Just a few days ago, he had sat on the roof of the Rhino, full of contempt for the bastards who could have saved countless lives in Antarctica, but decided not to. The damned Sovereigns.

So, following that logic... wouldn't he be doing the same by leaving the refugees to die in order to serve his personal convenience?

'What a weird and perverted way of thinking about things.'

Sunny was honestly nor sure about the validity of that conclusion, or if it even made any sense. But it was the best one he had managed to come up with.

So, after a long stretch of silence, he said:

"How much food and clean water do you have left?"

The soldier did not seem to understand his question. He stared blankly at Sunny for a few moments, and then perked up a little.

"We have a large surplus of both food and water, sir. That is one thing we don't lack... we also have a working water filter."

Sunny remained silent for a little while, and then nodded.

"Alright. Then you will follow us to Erebus Field. Do note that we will be moving through the mountains... do not worry, though. My cohort has scouted the road networks in this region of the Antarctic Center extensively. We'll guide you well."

The soldier took in a shaky breath and saluted.

"Yes, sir!"

Sunny lingered for a few moments, then asked:

"What is your name and rank?"

The man responded after a short pause, fidgeting with the collar of his coat:

"It's Sergeant Gere, sir."

Sunny glanced at the caravan of battered vehicles behind him, and sighed.

"Here's my order, Sergeant Gere. From now on, I'll be assuming command of this convoy. You did well getting them here. Leave the rest to me..."