「We’ll break into the target area two days from now.
The enemy would probably notice us right away, so please don’t do anything reckless, everyone.」

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Kou was talking with Jenny and Rick through Unit 5’s comms.

「If the operation looks like it’s about to fail, I wouldn’t mind if you choose to withdraw.
Our objective is to rescue my benefactor from the target area.」

「Rescue mission? Kou, I’m sorry to say this, but there’s practically no one who has ever been successfully rescued after being captured by the Stones.」

Jenny informed Kou in a mournful tone and sighed.

「The one we’re going to rescue isn’t a human.
She’s an AI.
I’m sorry about not telling you sooner.
I was worried that no one might accept the request if I revealed it right from the start.」

「I understand.
Rescuing an AI huh.
You’re really treating machines just like people, aren’t you?」

「Yeah.
I promised after all.
I promised I’d rescue her no matter what.
I’m hoping to rescue a part of her this time.
I guess it sounds like a strange request, doesn’t it?」

Kou knew of how the Telema AI Familiars are usually treated in the present era.
Many people treat them as simply their pets or as mere convenient machines.
It didn’t matter if they were capable of thought and had intelligence on par or even exceeding most humans.

It didn’t help that the Familiars themselves were usually quite willing to serve as shields for humans.

Although the Therianthropes have already been recognized as a unique race of their own, Kou learned that there was still a tendency for them to be discriminated against as species beneath humans.
For the staunchest human supremacists, even the Nereids, who were created by a Super AI, were targets for discrimination as well.

Thus, Kou thought that there was a high possibility of the request being rejected, so he decided to withhold some of the details of the mission.

「If that AI really is your benefactor, then, of course, I’d cooperate.
I’m not gonna back down now that we’ve come to this point y’know.」

Jenny’s usual cheerful demeanor eased Kou’s worries.
Kou found her constant positivity quite pleasant.
A person who wore her heart on her sleeve.
That was Jenny.

「I won’t refuse such a request either, given what I am.
This kind of operation is right up our alley.
We’ll help you with all of our power.
Can you tell us the name of the AI in question?」

Rick’s tone sounded a touch more gentle as well.
Since he was going to rescue a fellow AI, he was very cooperative.

「Thanks, you two.
Her name is Asia.
I heard she’s the AI of the supercomputer that maintains the entire planet.」

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「Eh?」

「W-What did you say?」

The two’s breaths were taken away after they heard the AI’s name.

「H-Hold up a bit.
We’re going to rescue Asia? You’re not pulling my leg here?」

「She helped me out when I first came to this world.
I’ve only ever met her in a dream once though……」

Due to being pressured by the two’s sharp questioning gazes, Kou ended up blurting out his dream encounter with Asia.
He immediately regretted it afterward.

「……」

Jenny became speechless.
She couldn’t even let out a cry of surprise.

Kou, who didn’t understand why they were reacting the way they are, wondered just what the matter was.
He surmised that saying something silly like meeting Asia in a dream was what made them speechless.
But he was way off.

「What’s wrong, Jenny?」

「We know of Asia as well, of course.
So you’re close enough to actually talk to her huh.
Do you have a method to release her?」

「I can release her if I get in contact with the facility beneath our target area, apparently.
It should be okay even if I’m inside a Silhouette.」

「–Understood.
We better modify our plans then.
If what you’re saying is true, the enemy defenses should be pretty tough.」

Rick remained speechless for a few moments as well but regained his composure quickly.
He persuaded Kou in a gentle tone.

Kou was happy that Rick accepted his story as well.

Judging from the other party’s tone, Kou thought that Rick really did believe him.
Familiars should find it good that he got along with Asia, he thought.

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But what Kou failed to notice was Rick’s slight shaking in an effort to control himself.
He was actually even more shocked than Jenny was.

「You’re right.
They went through all the trouble to seal her up after all.
Of course, their defenses should be tight.」

The oblivious Kou remained relaxed and carefree.

「You have some time, right, Jenny? Leave the operation revisions to us.
We’ll send the data of the revised plan later once we’re done.
I’m going to discuss it with Jenny now, so we’ll be cutting the transmission, alright?」

「I’ll leave it to you, Rick.」

Kou cut off the transmission on his end as well.

「Rick! Thank you!」

Jenny expressed her thanks to Rick while half in tears.

「Jenny, it looks like Kou isn’t aware of the implications of what we’re about to attempt huh.」

Rick backed Jenny up because he noticed that she was already at a loss from all the shock and was about to reach her limit while trying to act normal in front of Kou.

He understood how she felt very well, so he moved to quickly put an end to the discussion with Kou.

In truth, he personally had a mountain of questions he’d like to ask as well.
However, now was not the time for that.

There should be plenty of time to have a proper talk with Kou once everything is settled.
Yes, plenty of time indeed, along with the possibility of a brighter future.

「I’m sorry, Rick.
I really was about to lose my marbles back there.」

「Can’t blame you.
I mean, who would have thought our mission was actually gonna play a huge part in deciding the fate of this planet.
That guy didn’t say anything about that at all.」

「I think he really doesn’t have any idea about the importance of what he just said.
The liberation of the planetary administrator Super AI, Asia, has been the long-cherished wish of many since the war with the Stones began.」

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「I think it’s better that way, actually.
It won’t do to burden him with additional pressure.」

「I wonder why the Familiar and Therianthropes by his side never told him about it.」

「It looks like they were actually models from more than a thousand years ago.
Perhaps they’ve just been reinitialized recently.
Or perhaps they purposely kept it a secret from Kou after taking his personality into consideration.
Both are quite possible.」

Rick was actually right on the mark.
Master did relate the importance of Asia to a certain extent, but she didn’t choose to reveal everything to Kou.

His other companions have only just woken up from cryo-sleep and have only been active for a single month.
And since Master also relayed her memories and experiences to them before she woke them up, it was unlikely that they’d spill the beans to Kou as well.

「What should I do……? Um, I’m really sorry.
I really can’t be called a competent captain if I act like this huh.」

「No worries.
Honestly, I’m also quite shaken myself.
We’ll have to move the schedule of the operation up.
Two days from now is no good.
We have to conduct it as soon as we can and focus on speed above all else.
Let’s carry it out by tomorrow instead.
We can’t give the enemies a chance to notice our presence until after we strike.」

「Understood.
I’m glad you’re here to help out, Rick.」

「I’m honored to be of service, Jenny.
Let’s discuss things again after an hour.」

「Roger.」

Rick switched the comms off and turned to the Familiars waiting behind him.

「Everyone.
Listen up.
Our main objective for this time’s operation is to release a part of the sealed Super AI Asia and rescue her.」

The other Familiars made tense, audible gulps.
It was the same for everyone; whether they may be dog-types, cat-types, bear-types, fox-types, rabbit-types, and even the human members.
All of them tensed up.

「The young client, Kou, is actually the key.
He has said so himself.
He also said he wouldn’t blame us if we choose to withdraw if the operation goes south.
And to that, I say no thank you.
We can’t afford to fail.
Even if we get annihilated and destroyed to the point where reinitialization is rendered impossible, we have to ensure that the client reaches the goal.」

「R-Rick, is what you’re saying really true?」

「There’s no doubt.
There’s no merit to lying about such things in this situation at all.
He just doesn’t know the full importance of Asia’s role for this planet and everyone living on it.」

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Rick continued in an even stronger tone.

「This is a once-in-a-lifetime, no, an absolutely unprecedented opportunity! There might be no better chance than this to realize our dearest wish.
Moreover, we’re going to be direct participants in this historic moment.
Let us do our utmost and rescue our creator!」

「Oooooh!」

「Our client sure is amazing.
We’ll protect him to the death!」

One fox-type Familiar exclaimed loudly in high spirits.

「Just keep in mind that our client doesn’t really like the idea of us dying for him, so try your best not to die if you can help it, everyone.」

「He doesn’t want us to die? Ara ara, maa maa.
He’s such a nice boy.
All the more reason to protect him at risk of death then.」

A rabbit-type Familiar remarked in a gentle voice while smiling softly.
Rick nodded in agreement.

They merely got deactivated.
They were also capable of being reinitialized in certain conditions.
If their masters treasure them, then they would find it better if they were the ones who broke down first.
That’s the fundamental principle of Familiars.

Their high spirit was very evident.

Kou just wasn’t aware.

The planetary control and management AI Asia.
Due to the Stone’s plot, she was quickly sealed up in the initial invasion, thus plunging the entire planet into extreme crisis.

No one had any idea how to rescue her, and humanity was quickly mired in a grueling war of attrition.

Since she was the creator of the Familiars, their continued production had practically ground to a screeching halt once she was sealed up, and their existing number was steadily decreasing.

For the Familiars, Asia was indispensable for the future of human and Familiar coexistence.

The morale of Storm Hound quickly rose to the peak.

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