Chapter 13.2: Strategy
It had now been hours since Akira’s first battle. The exam was progressing quickly. A group was advancing through the forest and heading towards one of the clearings.
“I think I see somebody.” The leader raised his hand and his group stopped moving. He turned to one of the members, and asked, “Can you scout the area ahead?”
The scout took out his Speculo; a small drone appeared in his hands. Its body had the same texture and luster as emerald, but as it flew out, its surface changed to a leaf pattern. The scout closed his eyes and sat down as the other three members got into a defensive formation around him. Soon, the drone ascended high into the sky, silent as it flew towards the direction the leader had specified.
The scout had been able to practice a lot with his Speculo after synthesizing and had become skilled with it. Using it wasn’t difficult for him as the drone was controlled mentally and the video feed was directed to his mind. He could multitask while operating it thanks to his continued practice, but it was easier if he stayed still and closed his eyes. As he lamented this and felt apologetic for his teammates who were forced to defend him, the drone reached a clearing. Seeing the people there, the scout couldn’t help but smile.
“Remember that former classmate you told us about?” With his eyes still closed, he asked his leader a question. “The one with Mana Paralysis?”
“Are you talking about Nishiyama? Is it him?”
“Yup.” His smile broadened into a grin. “There’s two including him, and they look injured. It’s likely the other two members went to scout ahead.”
“I see.” The leader didn’t look happy. “Let’s go. Ah, I want to face them head-on, no ambushes.”
“Why?” Surprised, the scout opened his eyes. The other two members shared his expression. In response, the leader scratched his head.
“I feel sorry for him.”
The leader, Fujita Kei, had been on somewhat friendly terms with Akira when they’d been in middle school. However, Kei never assisted Akira whenever he had been harassed and had instead retreated every time such a situation had been about to present himself. Now feeling regret for his past actions, he felt a little depressed, seeing he would have to fight a weakened Akira.
After all of them brought out their Speculo, they soon reached the clearing. Sure enough, he caught sight of some familiar crimson hair and saw another person he didn’t recognize. Both of them seemed to be covered in cuts all over their bodies, and their clothes were in a rough state.
“Is that you, Fujita-san?” Akira raised his brows after seeing his acquaintance, and a wry smile appeared on his face. “I thought you said you didn’t have the confidence to try out for JNIM.”
Despite how sad he felt, Kei couldn’t help but laugh.
“True, but somehow, I changed my mind and gathered up the courage to apply.” As he said that, he remembered the source of his regrets, and his smile faded into a grim expression. To the surprise of everybody present, he bowed to Akira.
“Nishiyama… I should’ve done more for you in school. I’m truly sorry, but I’ll be taking your points.”
All of his team members felt taken aback by his sudden apology. But Akira’s feelings were complex, and he was wearing a strained expression.
“Fujita, that’s all in the past anyways, so don’t worry too much about it.” Scratching his head, he sighed. “Rather, I should be the one apologizing.”
“Huh?” As Kei straightened his back, he felt dumbfounded by Akira’s words.
“Fujita-san, this was all my sister’s idea, okay? I had no part in this except for helping her carry it out. Akane!” As he finished apologizing, he called out to his sister.
“Yes~” In the same sing-song voice as before, she replied from the woods while activating her spell. Before Kei could realize what was happening, several spherical rocks appeared out of the ground.
“Once again, this was her idea, okay?”
As he said that, Nishiyama shot a Firebolt at one of the Flashbangs, causing a chain reaction that bathed the clearing in light. Blinded, Kei could do nothing but stumble, before he felt the weight on his neck lighten as a gust of wind passed by. Once part of his vision returned, his hand headed towards his neck, finding no collar there.
Unable to comprehend what had happened, he and his group were sucked into a vortex and removed from the fight.