| The monster in the shape of a boar; its eyes let off an ominous red light as it raised a war cry. With his classmates that couldn't even move to his back, Rudel channeled the Mana circulating around his body, using his swords to receive its charge. And Izumi who managed to react tried cutting her katana into the boar, but...
"Wha! It's too hard to cut!"
The katana blade chipped, and unable to endure the impact, Rudel was sent flying. The boar used its hind legs to scratch at the ground a number of times... before charging at Rudel once more. His body crashing into the trees, Rudel could feel the pain spread through it.
This time, Rudel avoided it and fired off magic at the boar. Elementary magics of fire and wind did hit their mark head on, but the boar emerged without any injury.
Regaining his stance, Rudel faced the boar. Seeing his form, a number of students gave a delayed response, attacking with magic, and the weapons in their hands.
Numbers were strength... but the monster wasn't weak enough to be suppressed by an exhausted class and injured Rudel.
Rudel hadn't given up. The dragoon were the strongest in Courtois. That meant if he lost he would have no future. A dragoon's loss would be the defeat of the country... the information from some book he had read before revived in his head.
The tusks protruding from the boar's splendid lower jaw came up at Rudel...
Wringing out the power in his body, Rudel swung his sword. As a result... the boar's fang stuck into the ground, but Rudel lost the battle of power, and was sent through the air once more. Its tusk broken, the boar came at Rudel in a frenzy. When it was already difficult to stand, avoiding a body blow from the charging beast.
"Right, that's as far as you go."
Alongside a voice, the guards in the rear attacked at once. Their magic burned the boar, their swords and spears cut and pierced it... Rudel and his classmates were shown just how far their powers differed.
It was all over in an instant. An enemy they couldn't even raise a hand against... before the guards who defeated it in an instant, Rudel's heart was filled with humiliation. Shame that the swordplay and magic he had polished served no purpose at all, shame at the reality that he would've died had he not been saved.
It all filled Rudel with an intolerable vexation.
"Withdraw? Don't be stupid! Having come this far, we can't just withdraw!"
The words Izumi sent Rudel as he pulled himself to his feet: 'Let's withdraw'. Unable to see his surroundings through his shame and irritation, Rudel opposed.
Izumi hung her head. Perhaps sensing Rudel's feelings, she couldn't say any more.
"Just a little more to go..."
Right, it wasn't long to the destination point... only halfway more. They really had no choice but to withdraw. Exhausted classmates and injured Rudel. A continuation would be putting lives on the line.
Seeing Rudel, Basyle thought.
(Reality's a harsh mistress. If that monstrosity didn't show up, perhaps he'd make it to the goal... well, it's only natural a kid can't make decisions under these circumstances.)
From a guard's point of view, Basyle had determined any continuation was impossible, and had sent some ahead to inform the teachers. All that was left was to make Rudel give up. Telling herself that keeping a child company any longer would be a pain, she had already given up on selling herself to him.
A lord without judgement was just what Basyle wanted. But...
"W-we can go just a little further, right?"
"T-that's right, we can do it!"
"It's just a little more, so stay firm."
Looking over Izumi and Rudel, the classmates said it of their own accord. Was it to protect themselves, or were they mindful of Rudel? No one could say.
But those classmates had finally entered Rudel's eyes. It was there that he finally understood they weren't in a state to continue on. There was no helping the injuries, but their weapons were in tatters, and he could spy ragged faces. Going on any further would be dangerous...
Rudel made a fist with his right hand. And after a while, he undid it and declared...
"Our class is... withdrawing."
"Hmm, he's surprisingly decent."
In a separate place, Basyle gave her impression of Rudel. Seeing the young nobles persist was a surprise, but the fact Rudel resolved to withdraw upon seeing them was also praiseworthy.
Basyle shrewdly held the boar tusk Rudel had severed in her hand.
For some reason, the rest had turned to a black mist and faded. This tusk alone became the only proof of the existence of that abnormal boar... but that tusk looked exceptionally beautiful to Basyle. Almost like a first-rate material. She ended up putting it away in her own bags.
By school regulations, she wasn't supposed to save them unless they were on the brink. The guards wouldn't lift a hand unless the students showed a desire to be helped. She had used that timing to rescue them in time, but... she didn't know if it would get her employment on good terms.
If Rudel persevered a bit more...
"I'm saying I can walk..."
Having taken a strong blow to the body, Rudel borrowed a shoulder from Izumi and Basyle as he walked. At first, he had pushed himself to move by his own feet, but his body instantly raised screams. His bodily fatigue from using Mana, and the bruising across his body were simply too great.
"If you walk and fall behind the others, what are you going to do? We'll be there soon, so just hold out."
"As expected of the eldest son of the Arses House, but... you're body's crying out."
Izumi was earnestly worried, while Basyle was trying to use her prided body as a weapon to approach Rudel... borrowing those shoulders of varied intent, he arrived at the forest's exit.
Looked upon from the side, it was a truly envious sight to behold. The other guards were also buttering up the young nobles to sell their services.
Right, when looked at from the side, it looked as if Rudel was being waited on by beauties.
And as bad luck would have it, Aleist's class had just reached the goal by their own strength. Seeing Rudel's ragged class, Aleist's class took on a condescending attitude. The fact they reached the goal on their own had inflated their egos a bit.
"You lot withdrew? The hell are you doing in this forest of nothing but small fries?"
"What pitiful folk. Those noble disgraces..."
"Aleist, you say something too."
Someone in class called out to Aleist. To Aleist, this was an event where Rudel had exhausted out his own class. He was a defeatist who would say, 'I knew from the start we would never reach the goal'. He remembered the scene coming out in the event. And Rudel with a flower in both arms had appeared in the event as well.
By Aleist's memory, idiotic Rudel retired, borrowing the shoulders of a beautiful guard and the number one beauty in the class, 'Izumi Shirasagi', as he boldly made his way out... he surely recalled it.
In this event, the protagonist would remain uninvolved. But Aleist's desires came out. He wanted to give Izumi and the beautiful guard a good impression...
"When you've retired and withdrawn, you've got a flower on each arm... are you looking down on it all? Why not think about the trouble you're causing those around you."
On those words, the jeers from Aleist's class began to get to Rudel's class' heads. When they had risked their lives facing a dangerous monster along the way... was there really a need to mock them so? ... Rudel let go of Izumi and Basyle's shoulders, coming out in front of Aleist.
"It's true that we withdrew, but we ran into a dangerous monster. And I understand that I'm troubling people."
Rudel knew he had exhausted his class, and on top of that, he had intended to urge them to continue on. But Aleist was referring to the two beauties.
"Hmm, what sort of monster was it?"
Rudel explained to Aleist. It was a ferocious boar monster, with a black body, white crest, and red eyes... once he finished explaining its characteristics, Aleist burst into laughter.
"There's no way such a monster spawns in this forest, fool. Listen here, if such a dangerous monster was here, this outing would never be held. You're just embarrassing yourself when you make such an excuse without understanding that basic fact."
Once he had finished his piece, Aleist sent a glance to Izumi and Basyle before leading off his classmates. Both of their faces seemed to say, the hell's he on about?
"I-I'm sorry, Rudel."
"We'll try harder next time."
"To think they wouldn't believe it... should I explain it to the teachers?"
As Rudel stood stock still, his classmates sent some comforting words. But Rudel looked on in surprise at the fact Aleist's class had barely suffered any injury at all. When his own group got injured simply by walking through the forest... Rudel could only feel more ashamed of himself.
He surely could have prepared more. If he had started gathering the information and equipment from the moment he was left in charge of the class... Rudel turned to his classmates. He looked over them all.
"Everyone, this time was my slipup. I'm sorry... but if you'll still allow me to take command next time, I'll definitely bring our class to the goal. No, we'll be first! Next time, we'll aim for number one! So could you please leave next time to me... I know I'm asking for a lot here, but please!"
As Rudel lowered his head, those around were confused. They were certain he would lay the blame on them... from the class, one, and then another raise a voice of approval. Of course, the first one was Izumi.