Based on the live combat data gathered from the recently concluded X463 Fortress Area Counteroffensive Operation, Kou and the others decided to create a new improvement plan for Lanius.

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Kou also decided to develop various weapons in order to round out the improvement plan.

However, they were lacking in a lot of things in order to do so.

Nyanta, Aki, and Aimer were brainstorming together with Kou.
Voy was in the hangar performing maintenance on Unit 5.

「I learned how to fight Keres in group combat, long-range, and also gained some experience in coordinating with Familiars by working together with Storm Hound.
All in all, I managed to obtain quite a harvest.」

「It looks like AK2 proved useful too nyaa.」

「That rifle is amazing.
It definitely made up for my weaknesses.
It really felt like it was designed specifically with me in mind.
I feel sorry that I wasn’t able to make good use of it during my battle with the Falco.」

「You’re too greedy.
You coming back safe and sound is more than enough for us, Kou.
That alone is worth all the hard work we put in creating the AK2.」

For the two ladies, Kou’s safety was a lot more important than AK2’s exemplary performance as a long-range weapon.

「Thank you, Aki, Nyanta.」

AK2 performed wonderfully during group and mid-range combat and even served as a sturdy shield in an emergency.
Everything was within the two ladies expectations.
They felt that all their efforts were really rewarded.

「We’re more than happy enough after hearing those words, Kou.」

「Having the good sense to thank your benefactors is a good thing nyaa.」

Aki displayed a gentle smile.
Nyanta seemed like she was a bit embarrassed.

「I wonder if it’s a good idea to release a mass-production version of AK2 on the market.
What do you think, guys?」

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「Sure nyaa.
There are already lots of instances of Wildcat cartridges getting sold in the market anyway.」

「If the ammo type becomes more popular, it’ll become easier to procure as well.」

The two readily agreed to Kou’s proposal.

「I’m thinking of taking everyone and joining either Metal Iris or Storm Hound.
I think the environment within those two groups is great for Familiars and Therianthropes.」

「We’ll eventually reach a bottleneck if we keep going at it alone after all.
I can go anywhere if I’m together with you, Kou.
You don’t even have to ask.」

Aimer immediately gave an affirmative response, and the other two assented as well.
Kou already felt that they’d probably agree, but he still decided to ask their opinion anyway.

「Mm.
We’ll all be together.
If I were told I absolutely needed to part with you guys, I’ll probably choose to shut myself inside Astraea instead.」

Kou was sure the others felt more or less the same as him.

However, if humanity falls at the hands of the Stones, Kou didn’t think their arsenal fortress housing Asia would be able to stay safe indefinitely.
Hence, they needed to cooperate with a major power eventually.
If so, Kou thought joining a group they felt a nice affinity with would be better.

「Let’s leave our future course of action as a group aside for now.
You called us here to develop new weapons, right?」

「Right.
I’ve thought of several ideas, but…… thanks to Asia, the number of things we can make suddenly increased by a lot.」

Kou smiled bitterly.
It was generally a good thing, but it also made it more difficult to sort out and select the needed information.

「The previous auction seemed to have made a surprising amount of profit.
Everyone seems to be really hungry for new tech.」

「Should we be more prudent this time around, Kou?」

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「No.
The tech would just gather dust in my hands if we decide to hold back.
Let’s provide tech for material production first.
I’m still undecided on which finished products we can release after all.」

「That’s fine nyaa.
Any Development Engineer is a capable bricoleur in their own right after all.」

「What should we make then?」

「I want to research better structural materials for improving Unit 5.
I’m also thinking of developing tanks, armored vehicles, and attack aircraft.
I also have several Silhouette proposals in mind.」

「We want to pilot them as well, Kou.」

「……Fine.」

「Eh? Seriously? Is it really alright nyaa? I’m happy though nyaa!」

Kou muttered his consent to Aki’s request.

He thought Nyanta would be against it, but she looked even more excited than Aki.

「There’s a limit to me going at it alone.
In order for all of us to survive… I just thought everyone’s survival rates might possibly increase if we fought together.」

One of the reasons why Kou decided to join an Underground Force was their survival as well.

「Of course.
It’s not just a possibility, Kou.
It’s a certainty.」

Aki affirmed Kou’s line of thought.

After all, they were next to helpless inside the hangar carrier that didn’t possess much combat capabilities while Kou fought alone on the battlefield.

They were happy that Kou finally realized it would be better for them to fight together.

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「I’ll pilot a Silhouette.」

「I’m sorry, but you’re an exception Aimer.
No fighting for you.」

Kou didn’t want a 10-year-old girl to actively enter a battlefield if he could help it.
He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he allowed such a thing.

「Please reconsider.
If Kou and the others are all defeated, will I still remain safe?」

「T-That’s……」

「I talked to Storm Hound’s mechanics.
They were both kids as well.
They said it was painful watching their Familiar teammates die protecting them during missions.」

Kou couldn’t give a response in return.

「I want to pilot a Work-type Silhouette in order to support Voy and the others who will be fighting in the frontline.
Familiars and Therianthropes alone wouldn’t be able to maintain the supply line out on the battlefield.
I will not participate in combat.
I will do my best solely as your support.」

Kou couldn’t come up with any reason to refute Aimer’s words.
Everything she said was true after all.

「……Understood.
I’ll consider it.」

That was all Kou could say in reply.

But he felt he needed to make something that will ensure her safety first.

「It looks like you’re going to be designing the strongest work machine huh, Kou.」

「I feel like a ridiculously overprotective work machine model will emerge soon nyaa.」

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Kou let out a big sigh.

He couldn’t insist on leaving Aimer out after all of that.
It would only make her feel sad.
And besides, apart from Nyanta and Aki, he felt that even Master, whose consciousness was sleeping within Aimer, and Astraea would take Aimer’s side as well.

「By the way, Astraea.
Are we really going ahead with that plan?」

『Of course.
The operation members would be Kou, Aki, and Fuyuki of Metal Iris.
It would also be nice if Blue or Jenny accompanied you as well.』

「I’ll be happy to accompany him, of course, but are you guys okay with that?」

「I won’t do cause I look like this nyaa.
And besides, I’m not cut out for that kind of stuff in the first place nyaa.」

「I’m also no good.
I’ll just stay here.
Voy is out of the question.」

Nyanta and Aimer both refrained from participating.

『I have also made arrangements to manufacture appropriate clothing for Kou and Aki.
A summary of the operation has also been sent to Metal Iris already.』

「You sure are fast……」

『Now is the best timing to perform the operation after all.
I am aware that you can be socially awkward, so I have arranged for members who can properly support you.』

「I got it.
Let’s carry out that operation immediately once Metal Iris accepts the request.」

Their next move was something Kou was really bad at.

In fact, he felt fighting with enemies on a battlefield would be better.
But he decided to just suck it up and muster the courage to go through with it in the end.

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