Chapter 17.2: Reconnaissance
So she touched all the bands until they were all gone, and every time she did, her collar would ring. Haya felt amused as the pile of collars began to disappear. Hiroaki too felt great happiness as he was now confident he would live to see the next day. After all, the girl in front of him was joyfully grabbing at the spoils of war, laughing as all of it slowly vanished into thin air.
[ELIMINATION CONFIRMED, TALLYING.]
Unbeknownst to her, a certain prodigy was yelling, “What the hell is going on!?” while furiously typing in commands on a terminal.
Nearby, a blonde woman was muttering something as her skin turned a paler color.
“Hey, hey… Isn’t this too much at once? I won’t be able to recover mana fast enough if they activate all the bands at once. What a bother…”
And back in the field, Amaya was speaking to the others in admiration.
“That’s convenient, it just adds points to whoever eliminated the other person. Let’s see… If we go by the normal statistics… I’d say there are less than five groups left?”
“Really?” — Hiroaki glanced at her in surprise — “What makes you say that?”
“There are about 250 applicants in this year’s exam, which is about 62 to 63 groups. If we use the numbers from this year’s Synthesis Ceremony and compensate for JNIM’s admission criteria, we can estimate which portions of the 250 applicants belong to which ranks,” she explained.
“Looking at our points, we have a lot more than we should have. We can assume this surplus comes from the groups that our victims eliminated beforehand. However…”
She stretched out her hand, and held within was a simple bow. Its thin limb was made of fragile-looking crystals, and it turned the light that fell onto it into wondrous reflections. Amaya knew its sturdiness was far beyond steel.
“Although there are several groups unaccounted for, we can assume that most were eliminated, so maybe three or four other groups are left? About that much.”
She plucked her bow’s string once, as if checking the tension, and then she drew it back fully. The bow began to shine. Pleased, she let her neutral expression fade into a slight smile. “So, are you ready?”
“No problems here.”
“Ah, scouting again, huh? What a bother… Welp, nothing to do about it. Let’s go!”
Confirming their status, Amaya let the bejeweled twine snap back into place making their figures. But before they could move, Hiroaki spoke up as an idea lit up his thoughts.
“Huh, now that I think about it…”
“Yes?” The girls asked together.
“There is one place I want to try checking out…”
His voice didn’t give away much, but in their minds, the clear image of his grinning expression appeared. Under Amaya’s ability, none of them could see each other, but they’d been friends for a long time. Simply hiding his face wasn’t enough to fool them.
“Well, then,” — without hesitation, Amaya began to pick up her pace — “Let’s put an end to the exam, and go celebrate our victory at Haya’s place.”
“Haa… Why my place?”
“Haya-chan, those doting parents of yours will surely throw a huge party.”
“Huh, fair point.”
In the vast and empty forest, four pairs of feet left deep marks on the ground as their owners jumped to the treetops, making their way towards a nearby clearing.
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