From the moment the fundamental-curriculum students entered the forest, it was already almost the fourth day. A few hours since they ran from their foe… in the forest, they stifled their breath, Rudel’s class looked after the underclassmen and guards they’d saved as they remained wary of their surroundings.
Within that, Rudel confirmed his own equipment as he looked up at the sky… his form gave Izumi a bad premonition. That wasn’t the usual Rudel… it seemed almost like he was excited… almost as if he was longing for battle.
Around, Rudel’s class’s guards looked after the immobilized guards and students, but… unable to find the cause, they were unable to snap them out of it.
“There’s no poison, and it isn’t hypnosis… just what did it do to get them in this state?”
Even the most capable of guards cocked their heads as they looked over the ones unable to move freely. Within all that, the leader of the immobilized guards issued orders. But upon hearing them, the others felt some unease.
“We’re fine, so just take the able-bodied ones, and get the princess out of this forest… staying here is way too dangerous.”
(Was that guy always someone who spoke so heatedly? I’re prefer he didn’t make a racket, riling up everyone around…)
That’s what everyone wanted… but while the brutal bird was circling the skies searching them out, whether they could escape or not was the problem. And as long as they didn’t have any information on the bird, the situation could take a turn for the worst.
When the princess was attacked, to the outside of the forest… they had sent a report to the academy’s relevant parties. But they hadn’t informed them of the bird’s abilities! In such a state, the mummy hunter would become the mummy… the casualties would only increase. And in this forest populated by so many students… you could say any and everything was bad as could be.
“That white cat missy’s class was saved, but… it’s only a matter of times before casualties stack up.”
Mii’s class was hiding alongside them. Among them, the elf girl… Millia was there as well.
“This is the worst.”
The mobile guards tried to draft the optimum plan in this forest. Even if the princess was saved as a result, they would be blamed for this mess, and there was a danger they would lose their lives… So the line came out as they thought over their prospects.
“Use a decoy? … And will that save us?”
One of the guards spoke to Rudel as a representative. He explained that Rudel and the princess would take along some of the still-mobile guards and make a break for it.
“… It will definitely save you.”
The guard’s face was dark, or rather tense. He was hiding something, convinced of that, Rudel asked the guard.
“Will that save all of us?”
On those words, the eyes of all those lowering their breath gathered. The guards hung their heads, and from their attitudes, the students knew not everyone would be saved. There were even some who began to sob.
“We’ll take those swift of feet outside of the forest. We need to get the information out quickly. It’s already midnight, so the probability of being found by the enemy is low.”
The guard felt ashamed that he could say nothing but lies. If the enemy was one with night-seeing eyes, they would definitely be spotted, and moving through the night was exceedingly difficult… the fact they needed to hurry regardless of such factors was because Fina was the princess of this country.
“Please pay me no mind… let us search for a path where we all survive.”
(You’re telling me to abandon my kitten!? Not happening! Not in a million years! And if I abandoned my classmates, what sort of person would that make me? I’m royalty so there’s no helping it? … Like any of you actually care about that! In the end, you’re just scared of what punishment is in store.)
“Got it… then I’ll be the decoy.”
As the guard showed surprise, Izumi and Fina reacted as well. At the unusual air Rudel gave off, Izumi’s unease became definite.
“Rudel, what are you talking about!?”
(Oh, right… I heard master was an idiot. He can study, but he’s not the clever type… though his technique in petting fluffies is at genius level…)
Within that dark air, Rudel’s outrageous statement had completely changed the flow.
“Did you hear any of that!? And as an escort target, you hold a high level of priority! Use such an individual as a decoy? I’d like you to quit joking around! Let us choose a decoy from among the guards… while I do feel sorry for the other students, they’ll have to escape by their own…”
Right, this plan utilized the other students running around to save the princess alone by all means. Even if the guards were done in, as long as the students’ escape attempts drew the monster’s attention, that was enough… it was that sort of plan.
And at that moment, two new classes arrived, led by their guards. Students the guards had to protect no matter the cost… the classes of Luecke and Eunius of the Three Lords.
The noble students, unable to understand the situation, raised their voices to cry out, ‘Explain what’s going on!’ Everyone present suppressed the mouths of those students, explaining to them in a whisper… but still they couldn’t’ understand. Or rather, they wouldn’t believe.
In this forest used for school events, there’s no way such dangerous monsters could exist… that was their argument.
“Quiet! Make a ruckus, and the enemy’ll find us… the princess is here too, so please just follow orders.”
The guard leader frantically explained in a small voice, even bringing the princess into it. If that was the case, the nobles could only keep quiet… in such a situation, Luecke and Eunius,
“If there’s such a monster out here, it’s much too dangerous… that’s a problem at a level where you’ll need to request a knight brigade.”
In contrast to Luecke’s levelheadedness, Eunius’ reaction was belligerent.
“What good’s it do to be weak at the knees? This is a chance to raise our names… and if we’re protecting the princess, won’t this be a bit of a hero’s tale?”
He muttered as he gripped the hilt of the sword on his back… there, Rudel put in his mouth.
“Then the three of us can be the decoy. As luck would have it, I have no objection to their strength. Eunius will be the vanguard, and Luecke at the rear…? I think I’m fine wherever, but…”
“Wait a second, Arses! Why are you dragging me into this decoy role!?”
While his voice was a whisper, Leucke’s voice gradually grew with anger. Rudel responded only as if it were natural.
“Its only natural for a noble to protect the crown. When you’re always going on about obligation and responsibility, you’re going to run?”
“… When we have specialists, why do we amateurs have to move…”
In order to ensure the princess can get away, I don’t want to decrease the amount of guards on her. Also…
On Rudel’s high-handed persuasion, those around grew anxious. Action without any regard to his own standing was Rudel’s specialty, but… this was simply too terrible.
There, yet another new class made their entrance… Aleist’s class. They were terribly worn out, and it didn’t look as if anyone besides Aleist would be of any use… the lot of them seemed to be nothing more than a hindrance.
“I heard the story along the way… the chance has finally come for me to do some service!”
Aleist- the sole energetic one- looked at the princess as he gave a response brimming with confidence… but his clothes and equipment were in tatters, and Fina wasn’t quite buying it.
“Are you the son of the Hardie House? I’ve heard rumor of you…”
(Oh, right, umm… that guy! Mister upperclassman who’s strong like a monster, and looks really cool, but can’t get a girlfriend for some reason… I won’t say anything about someone’s hobbies, but what’s so good about being with other men? Normally, shouldn’t you choose the fluff!?)
Fina seemed to misunderstand Aleist. But unaware of that, Aleist also had some thoughts.
(What’s this!? Even the white cat Mii is here! As I recall, these two had a beautiful friendship that transcended the bounds of status, right? If I perform well here, then… alright, whatever monster you are, come at me!)
Within that space now lacking in tension, Rudel alone seriously checked over his equipment as he issued orders to his classmates. And looking up at the sky…
“Then Aleist can also join in, and the four of us will be decoys… everyone else should make for the outside of the forest. Izumi, you guide the students apart from the princess.”
Even so, Izumi tried to stop Rudel.
“Give it up already! There’s no need for you to do such a thing, is there!?”
As Rudel still wouldn’t conceded the decoy role, the blood came to a guard’s head, and he tried to draw close. It was at that moment.
Alongside an ominous voice, the brutal bird descended… As everyone was frozen on the spot, with a sword equipped on his right hand, and magic gathered in his left, Rudel attacked at full speed.
Unable to respond in time, the bird was sliced into and sent flying with magic… but it quickly rose, angrily shaking its body… it had completely set its sights on Rudel.
“Go!!! … And to you three fellow decoys, decide on your own whether you’ll stay or run… if it’s just me alone, I don’t know whether I can defeat it or not.”
“Wha!? You plan to beat it!? This monster?”
Luecke was surprised. And Aleist dumbfounded. As everyone sprung to action in response to Rudel’s call, some carried those who couldn’t move on their backs, while others just ran in a frenzy… but even so, the bird’s many eyes focused on Rudel.
“I’m staying too.”
Izumi tried to take part as a decoy, but Rudel denied it.
“That would trouble the class. With your better sense for the night, their probability of escape will increase if anything terrible happens… now go!”
“Kuh! Everyone better return alive, Rudel!”
Izumi also lent a shoulder to an immobilized student as she ran off. Worrying about Rudel to the very end. And of the remaining four, Eunius let out a grand laugh as he took a stance with his sword.
“Nice… splendid, Rudel! You’re the best… I recognize your courage to challenge this beast! Luecke! Aleist! If you’re running, then make it quick.”
“D-don’t joke around! There is no reason for me to fear a monster of this caliber! I’ll blow it away with my magic, so you need only stand there and watch… Rudel, you bear witness too! That this is my power of…”
Luecke quickly began to prepare his prided magic. Regardless of his long-winded speech, combat had already begun, so it was ignored as a simple matter of course. But Aleist…
“W-why are the Three Lords getting along… shouldn’t you all ‘hate each other’? And yet, why are you fighting on a combined front…”
He was still muttering himself, his preparations for battle still pending.