Giant Beast Forest, forward operating base...
The soldiers got into their assigned squads, picked up their gears and they steadily entered the Giant Beast Forest to complete their assignments.
Some squads were placed on Demonic Beast hunting, obtaining the precious resource to keep the empire's economy operating. There were also squads in charge of reconnaissance, surveying the forest and looking out for demonic beast activity. They are ordered to report to their superiors immediately if they found any signs of a monster outbreak. Other squads were placed on Beast King tracking duties.
The base operated flawlessly. It's hard to imagine the base was in a state of chaos until just a while ago.
After Wu Yan left the base, things died down. Mysterious monsters stopped popping up, conflicts were minimal, and most appreciated of all, the soldiers got their good night sleep. The soldiers who were used to being awakened in the middle of the night needed some time to adjust to this relatively peaceful life.
The soldiers finally realized how good they had it. At least when Wu Yan weren't around, they could still risk their lives in the forest while the base is secured. Compared to the past, the soldiers were in heaven.
Plus, the events they witnessed, a peak tier 8 murdered like he's nothing, the shattered sky event, an ex-captain turning into a monster, the poor soldiers had to deal with all sorts of mental and physical hurdles. It's safe to say the soldiers were very sensitive to any disturbance. They weren't cool sleeping when the sky can break and monsters can sneak into their base.
Lei Wang and Pelosi started wondering if Wu Yan is just someone who brought misfortune with him.
Regardless of what the soldiers thought, they were still people in the base that missed him. They wondered when he would return.
In the eastern regions of the base, in a relatively large tent...
The girls sat at the main table in the center of the tent. They faced the dishes laid out on the table together with no one absent, they were getting ready to have a meal together.
The girls looked at the food in front of them as they hesitated. The girls exchanged looks with one another while gulping anxiously. Nobody touched the "food" on the table.
On the plates were weirdly-shaped strings of coiled object laid in piles. In short, it looked like somebody picked up human crap and put it on plates.
Let's not mention what Hinagiku, Mikoto, and the other has to say. It means a lot that even the bottomless pits known as Astrea and Tohka stayed clear of the "food". The mood turned into an awkward silence.
Tohka's butterfly accessory twitched. This signalled its owner's elation, or rather her owner was tempted to eat.
Poking the "food", Tohka asked something that was addressed to everyone.
"Are we eating?"
Hinagiku's eyebrows twitched as she took a look at the piles of "food". She swore she could have seen green gas being ejected from the food on the table.
Mikoto tried to place it as gently as she could.
"What the heck are these things?"
Shokuhou Misaki beamed at her with a forced smile.
"Misaka-san, don't you recognize cookies when you see it?"
Mikoto pointed her trembling index finger at the junk on the table.
"Are you sure those are cookies?..."
Shokuhou Misaki added in a hurry.
"I know, it looks strange but they are cookies, don't take my word for it, just try..."
When she told the others to try, they all shivered and twitched in fear. Kotori stopped with political correctness.
"Why are we eating crap for lunch?"
"It's not crap, those are cookies!"
Shokuhou Misaki corrected Kotori in annoyance. Kotori ignored her and she repeated her question.
"Alright, why are eating cookies?..."
"In the end..."
Frenda raised her hand.
"That guy's not around so no one's on kitchen duty..."
You're syaing nobody cooked?..."
Hinagiku tilted her head in confusion.
"I thought we had Ikaros, even if Wu Yan's not around she could have whipped something up, right?"
Kinuhata Saiaia pointed her lips at Ikaros.
"Why don't you take a super look yourself?"
The others looked at Ikaros. She was sitting there with an absent gaze, it's like her body's there but her soul's gone. The girls were surprised by her current condition.
"Ara, what's this?"
Kurumi touched her lips.
"Why's Ikaros acting like that?"
Astrea answered for her.
"After Master left, Ikaros-senpai fell into that state and she stayed like that..."
"True, Yan never left things hanging like this. He would always tell us when he's about to go on a journey, I can see why Ikaros' worried sick..."
She looked at the plates on the table.
"How did these cookies came to be?"
Kinuhata Saiai and Frenda turned towards Takitsubou Rikou, they were gesturing for her to explain. Takitsubou Rikou did not appreciate this delegation of duty but she still reported with a lowered stature.
"Erm, because Ikaros wasn't in the mood, we decided to let her off kitchen duty..."
Kotori followed up with razor-like precise questioning.
"Okay, who cooked, this?"
The tent fell silent again.
The girls were pressing Kinuhata Saiai, Frenda, and Takitsubou Rikou for answer. They wanted to know who is the culprit, the way they stared at the trio made them sweat in fear.
They smelled the trio's fear and they continued laying pressure on them.
They were the ones who were vocal when asked, clearly, they know something the others didn't...
Frenda, Kinuhata Saiai, and Takitsubou Rikou slowly cracked as they slowly turned towards Shokuhou Misaki who tried to keep her poker face up with difficulty.
Mikoto voiced the thought of the people.
"You made these?"
"Y-yeah, got a problem with that?..."
Shokuhou Misaki twirled her hair using her fingers. Her shaking voice didn't convince anyone.
"Look, I can see Ikaros' going through a tough time so I thought I would cook us up some rice..."
Mikoto pointed at the piles of alien object on the table.
"That's not rice last I checked."
Shokuhou Misaki fumed.
"I only know how to make cookies, okay?!"
"Why didn't you get help from others?"
Kotori glanced at the cookies and she immediately averted her gaze as if she just saw something terrible.
"Hinagiku, Kurumi, and Takitsubou Rikou, they know how to cook, right? If you roped them in..."
"I just felt like making it, okay?!"
Shokuhou Misaki snorted as she meekly added.
"I know how to cook, I am not only good at eating..."
The girls' twitched their lips in unison. They looked at the cookies and they silently judged her.
They had the same thoughts, they wished Shokuhou Misaki would just stick to eating...