The academy’s air was different than usual. The students of the standard curriculum had all gathered on the grounds, wearing easy-to-move-in clothing, each of them carrying a weapon. The weapons were either personal possessions or ones borrowed from the academy, and there was no sense of uniformity with their equipment.
“Henceforth, you shall march to the nearby forest…”
The teacher charged with explaining told the students all the important points and dangers. But in the end, thinking they were just taking on some weak monsters, the students were lax.
The march began. It was an established annual event, so perhaps the teachers were lacking tension as well… as they marched in considerable numbers, their appearance ranged from children with children weapons to a full-fledged army. Right, a mishmash of an army…
Aleist’s class proceeded forward with Aleist at the front eliminating everything in his path. To Aleist, this event was good EXP farming, nothing more and nothing less.
“Ah, Aleist, that’s no good, I’m telling you! You’re destroying the forest.”
From repeated attacks of wide-range intermediate magic, the forest trees were felled, and the earth gouged out… almost as if a storm had passed through…
His classmates watched him as if they were looking upon something dreadful. But the boy in question didn’t notice. For that was all this event was to him…
“Something of this level’s no problem at all… and if we keep at it like this, we’ll come in first.”
On another path than the group brute forcing their way through, Rudel proceeded forwards with much hardship. While his classmates marched through the forest, someone would have to take command. The monster hunting specialists watched the students from the rear, and if things grew dangerous, they would call out orders.
But in all other cases, Rudel was chosen as commander due to his high grades. Of course, the fact no one could go against his lineage was another reason. It was a single method to shut up the young nobles.
Perhaps that was why… between the high nobles, this had become something of a competition. Though Rudel didn’t seem to care…
The experts irrelevant to all of that grinned as they watched over Rudel’s clumsy command and combat. When he tried to move, comrades would be in the way, and while he fought, those comrades would find themselves lost… a glance was enough to know they were facing troubles.
“Kuh! We’re not getting anywhere.”
“Calm down, Rudel. More than the monsters, just proceeding through this forest is pushing our limits.”
Izumi explained to Rudel. Looking around, his classmates tired from walking through unfamiliar woods had suffered more injury from the trees than any monster.
As such matters repeated, the sun began its downward climb, and the forest grew dark. As camping was also a part of the training, the class assembled from nothing but nobles was at a severe disadvantage. Of course, that class had some talented experts supporting from behind.
“Oy! Why do I have to do something like pitch a tent!?”
“Hurry it up! We’re all tired, and we want some rest!”
“Then why don’t you do it, penniless noble!”
Behind, the experts smiled as they looked over these annual customs. Rudel was also irritated things weren’t going his way. Looking at the map, he felt disheartened at the fact he couldn’t even reach the designated point.
“So the forest is a bigger threat than the monsters… can’t laugh at that.”
The goal of this event was to be the first ones to reach the destination point. At this rate, it was quite plausible they would come in last. The classes with more commoners had advanced a considerable distance. At this point, there was surely a great divide between them. Was this the reality… Rudel thought as his spirits dropped.
“Let’s just rest for today. We can set out early tomorrow.”
Izumi’s consoling didn’t have much of an effect on him. To Rudel, this was a vital event that would influence his grades. In becoming a dragoon, his grades at the academy would be one of the criteria. When he thought of it like that, Rudel couldn’t keep still.
“We’ll definitely make up for today’s loss tomorrow!”
Rudel resolved himself. But reality wasn’t so sweet.
The monster hunting experts, there were various ways to refer to them, but they were pretty much soldiers. They ranged from the stray mercenaries and adventurers, to those extraordinarily skilled in defense… various sorts had gathered.
Among them were some hoping for fateful encounters through this event. By no means related to romance. They were guards trying to sell themselves to the young nobles… they had obtained information on the influential nobles beforehand. While it wasn’t strictly legal, if they didn’t do that much, they’d be overtaken in no time.
A member of their ranks, Basyle was a woman whose brown skin and light blond hair served as her characteristics. Equipped with a bladed cane one couldn’t say for certain was a spear or a staff, she wore the highly exposing attire of a dancer. Thinking of her location, it was quite improper, but that was merely proof of what was allowed at her level of ability.
… After that long trip through the forest, she was unscratched.
“Well, for these kids, I guess it’s a passing grade?”
She made a decision as she looked over Rudel’s group’s camp. Of course, it was a decision taking into account these were nobles on their first outing… by normal criteria, they were out of the question.
One of Basyle’s fellow guards spoke.
“The lookouts’ve dozed off, the bonfire’s about to go out… the way things are going, the folks around won’t be getting any sleep.”
He shrugged as he gave his judgement. Night was when the monsters were most active. It was the time period carrying the greatest danger.
“I’m glad I got to be a guard of this class. When all’s said and done, we have the Arses house, and all manner of deep-pocketed nobles… the more incompetent they are, the more chances there are to get on the market.”
To Basyle, if it would get her out of her day to day adventurer and guard position, then she had no problem with children. She even thought it fine to present her body.
“But… that Rudel’s surprisingly decent. Those idiot information dealers have thrown off my plans.”
The guards had thought Rudel would be completely useless in command. But his surprising tenacity had lessened their roles. She had wanted to have sold a favor by now…
“I’ll have to return this debt of false information… but it really is strange. From what I’ve seen, he’s reasonably talented.”
Swordplay, magic, and battle… from the eyes of the guards, Rudel was decent. As he was in a difficult commanding role, his slipups stood out… but even so, you could say he passed. If he said he wanted to join her party, then pure ability-wise, she wouldn’t have a problem with it.
“He’s panicking, but from the surrounding reactions, he isn’t hated too much. He’s a fine article.”
Basyle included, the guards’ evaluations were surprisingly high… and they had been paid for another job. They were also the graders for this event.
While he was receiving such a high evaluation, Rudel himself felt impatience at the uncanny situation. On the third day, he confronted the reality he hadn’t even made it half of the planned distance, and that his class was completely exhausted. Not from the monsters… they could raise an arm or leg to this unfamiliar forest environment.
“Why aren’t we getting anywhere!?”
Those around felt fear at Rudel’s irritation. Angering the eldest son of one of the Three Lords was something their parents told them to avoid by all means. The atmosphere naturally took a turn for the worse…
“Rudel… everyone’s doing their best in an unfamiliar environment. And there’s just a little more to go to the destination point. We’re halfway there.”
“And there’s still half to go. At this rate, we really are coming in last…”
Rudel didn’t care about appearance. He really only cared about the grade. While she noticed that, Izumi knew just how seriously Rudel was aiming to be a dragoon, leaving her unable to say anymore.
The two of them hung their heads as they thought over what was to come. At that moment.
Rudel and Izumi raised their faces. In the direction one of their classmates pointed, they could see the large, black shadow of a monster. Its red eyes looked upon Rudel and the rest of the class as prey…