| Once the forest excursion commenced, Rudel's group hurriedly made for the first point. In the class that advance through the trees towards its determined destination point, there were barely even any murmurs. Izumi was at the head, and Rudel walked a little behind. Izumi and Rudel were about the only ones in class able to respond to emergency situations.
Taking that into consideration, Izumi was put at the lead, and Rudel was behind giving orders to the whole.
This was largely due to Izumi's ineptitude in magic. It's not that she couldn't use it, but she would always end up relying on her specialty swordplay. In that regard, Rudel had no weaknesses. He excelled in swordplay and magic, and he was the all-purpose type that could work wherever he was stationed.
"The noble classes are lagging after all... at this rate, the commoner classes will come out on top..."
Rudel remained wary of his surroundings as he confirmed the classes slowly drifting down different routes. But there was more than one noble class, and one of them was proceeding at roughly the same speed as Rudel's.
"The princess' class is a proficient one."
As she walked at the front, Izumi could also confirm the princess class separating away. She could also see Chlust following along behind. Leaving his baggage to his followers, he was equipped with nothing but his weapon. What's more, he took a dubious distance from the class.
"Is Chlust a core fighter? If they're leaving the rear to him, he must be considerably skilled."
Rudel showed some admiration for his little brother. But his eyes soon turned to survey his own class as a whole... it seems he had already lost interest. From Izumi's point of view, Chlust who merely followed along looked like the baggage of the class.
In actuality, Chlust took a set distance from the class, and separate combatants to protect the rear had been prepared.
"Rudel really is irresponsible in things he has no interest in. I guess that's just like him, but..."
Izumi let out a sigh. She turned her gaze forward, proceeding further and further into the forest's depths.
With their experience the year before, Aleist's class was... unable to proceed forwards. It was because the academy had reflected on last years events, and added onto the important points to follow.
'Do not recklessly destroy the forest.'
This was an entry that came from Aleist's conduct in the previous excursion. Aleist had only ever heard of that warning in the final checks before they departed... there were printouts distributed beforehand, but he had neglected them.
"What are we going to do, Aleist!? At this rate, we're going to come in last!"
"Just use your magic already!"
"Fool! The guards are keeping an eye on us... do you want to be found out and failed?"
Leading this panicked class, Aleist used elementary magic to take on monsters and trees... it was an exceedingly distressful journey. His classmates would immediately move out on their own, and there were even some who would hide if battle began, so finding them was yet another trial...
This situation was the same as, if not worse than what Rudel faced the year before.
"Get a grip on yourselves! Leaving everything to me... have any of you taken part in battle yet? You haven't! Quit leaving all the combat to me!!"
In such a situation, Aleist was reaching the end of his patience. Aleist's class started arguing on the spot... The fact their feet stopped contributed heavily to their lowering rank.
"Princess, are you alright?"
Three days since the academy's fundamental curriculum students entered the woods. It was around the time the faster classes would start reaching the goal. And the princess' class was one of those fast classes.
"Yes, I'm alright."
(Alright? No way in hell I'm alright!! Just how many fluffies do you lot think you've killed in these past three days!!? Even getting so hyped up just because you were in front of me... when you don't even usually talk to me! And there's that Chlust! That bastard... cutting down any killer rabbits that came close to me! I could've endured a few good blows! Endured and bathed in the fluff!!!)
"Princess, you haven't forgotten my achievements, have you? I, Chlust, who raced to her majesty in her time of crisis shall continue to protect you henceforth."
As Chlust defeated a killer rabbit that appeared while the guards were away, he had managed to convince the guards that complained whenever he got close to the princess. And like that, he got to be stationed nearby her. Though the one who created that gap in the guard schedule was the princess herself...
"Thank you, Chlust... you have grown reliable."
(Hah? You were just stalking me, weren't you? Rather... erk, I feel sick!)
Fina expressionlessly answered Chlust... but at that moment, a black and white wicked bird swopped down with its sights on the princess' class.
As Rudel's class made for the goal, while they showed some exhaustion, everyone wrung out the last of their strength to reach. The way things were going, they were sure to obtain a high rank. Even first place was possible... but.
Appearing from the side of their route, a group of underclassmen nobles. The fact these nobles were right before the goal on the third day... meant they were probably the princess' classmates. But if any classmate went missing, or strayed from the route, the class was supposed to receive a failing grade.
"Why are you guys here? The goals should have been prepared separate for each class."
Izumi drew close and questioned the underclassmen.
"T-the princess! The princess, by a black bird!"
"A large bird monster appeared... all the guards went out to fight it, but we could only run..."
Hearing those words, Rudel's eyes turned serious.
"What direction... what direction are they in!?"
The underclassmen were startled by Rudel's shout. With shaking fingers they pointed down the path they came...
"... Everyone, listen up."
Rudel gathered all his classmates in one place and began talking.
Black, with a white pattern across it, the fearsome bird blew away the guards who appeared to protect the princess. Flapping its wings, its four legs kicked the guards about... the scattering guards were capable ones prepared specifically for the princess. But they...
"This monster! For a while now, my body isn't doing what I tell it to!"
"What are you doing!? Someone, anyone, just take the princess and run!!!"
"If only my body could move... this damn bird...!"
Protected by her guards that were also her classmates, Fina looked upon the scene.
(Ah, even I don't think I could cuddle with that black bird.)
She was trying to escape from reality. This was largely because her body wouldn't move. She couldn't put power into her legs... her arms didn't feel like they were her own... at this very moment, the students who weren't able to flee were resolved for death.
The red eyes all across the black bird's body simultaneously turned to take in the princess. That number of eyes was abnormal, and seeing them, even the fluff-loving princess shook from the bottom of her heart. There, a white shadow leapt out.
The one who entered the gap between princess and bird was the White Cat Tribe's Mii.
"W-what are you doing, Mii! Stand down!"
The princess panicked, but even now, she had no expression. To that princess, Mii...
"I-I'm scared, but I'll do my best! I'll do my best for the princess who called me her friend! .. H-huh? I can't put power into my body?"
While Mii had jumped in with good momentum, she fell to her knees before the brutal bird's cry... as the bird approached, everyone could foresee the death of the white cat girl and the princess.
Yet once more, an individual leapt into the space between Mii and the bird. But this time, that individual was going full force from the start.
A wind attribute magic, just as he leapt out of the forest, he smashed it into the monster at point-blank range. It was a surefire magic... If he was going to become a dragoon, Rudel said he wanted a special attack, and had Basil teach him.
With two shots of wind magic from his two hands, he displayed destructive power unthinkable from an intermediate magic. As the bird was sent flying, everyone present was left in a daze.
(Master really is a badass~!!!)
"T-the noble from back then?"
Within all that, Fina and Mii were the first to let out words, but...
"... Now! Start running!"
Alongside his words, Rudel's classmates ran over to the collapsed students and guards, lifting them up and running off. Rudel lifted up the princess and Mii, taking flight at full force.
"Why are you running? Didn't you defeat it with that?"
The Princess asked.
"It's still moving, and its eyes aren't dead. It'll be up chasing us soon!"
"If you use that magic from before..."
A princess under one arm, a cat girl under the other... to Mii's question, Rudel made a straight face.
"That was a special move! I thought it up with Basyle, it was a powerful special with a mana consumption unfeasible for real combat!"
"I'm out of mana, so I can't use it. Even if I do, I won't be able to move anymore, so we'll lose!"