Chapter 101 Absentee Instructors (Part 5)
After running for hours without a break, everyone had finally had come to a stop. Haeru and Leo and two others were the only ones with enough stamina and physical strength to run that far for that long at a full run without exhausting themselves.
Everyone else was drinking plenty of water and they were running low on supplies. Normally the instructor of the group would carry a large portion of their supplies in their storage devices. Since the participants weren’t allowed to carry one with them, they were forced to carry what they could on hand and leave everything else to their instructor, which had turned out to be a detriment for the group. They hadn’t been in contact with their instructor for a few days now, and the last of their supplies had all but run out in the past few hours.
‘Who knows if we’re going to make it at this rate… All she said was north and I still have no idea how far we are.’ Leo was thinking to himself and Haeru surveyed their surroundings.
Haeru was thinking differently, no longer focused on the events from before he was now focusing on the task at hand. ‘It’d be terrible if we arrive before or even on time but don’t have any way to deal with whatever is happening. If there really is a catastrophe that’s about to happen to the other participants then I need to come up with a plan before we get there.’
Haeru took a look at Leo and gave him another appraisal. In Haeru’s mind Leo was a very impressive guy. He was clearly not weak, he could hold his own in a battle and he’d proven as much thus far. ‘His skill with the sword is quite impressive considering he probably hasn’t had someone of a high enough level teach him thus far… He’s courageous, doesn’t show fear in the face of danger and knows how to lead…. More or less.’
Despite Haeru’s high appraisal of Leo, he also had a feeling that Leo wasn’t the type to plan things too far in advanced. He also seemed limited in terms of his knowledge. Which meant he’d had limited resources back in Lumea City. ‘Although it wasn’t a great detriment because knowledge could be attained, it gave Haeru the distinct feeling that by himself Leo would at some point fail to notice some small but obvious detail to those who’d been in the know-how. “He’s got incredible reflexes and senses, but some things require knowledge not instinct”
They didn’t dwell for too long as they traveled at their fastest speed as a group. Their goal to save the other participants and attain an even higher appraisal from the professors not only fueled a fire in all of their hearts but kept them steady even as they grew weary from moving without rest.
After a grueling few sprints that covered the distance of a marathon, Leo could tell that they’d arrived. He hadn’t seen anything yet, but he could smell the blood in the trees. Haeru noticed almost as quickly as the others caught on as the came across a group of bodies.
“Trolls.” Leo said.
“Think it’s them?” Haeru asked no one in particular as they all wondered the same thing but only moments later they heard a scream not too far from them.
Leo and a few others were about to leap forward but Haeru had already moved in front of Leo and signaled the others to stop. He whispered load enough for those close to hear “We move quietly and slowly. We assess the situation first and then move. If it’s simple we go in quick. If it isn’t, we form a plan.”
Leo and the others immediately agreed with this. There was no actual leader in their group, everyone would simply go along with whatever they wanted. It just so happened that most of them were reasonable enough to agree with any sensible idea and go with the group majority if it that was what it came too. Thus far it had simply been Leo and Haeru speaking up but it couldn’t be helped considering how they managed to stand out time and time again.
They slowly moved through the trees and a from a long distance they saw a sight that startled them. A few of the participants were already lying in a puddle of blood. The other participants were huddled around each other as they vigilantly looked at their surroundings.
Although they weren’t close they could all make out the situation. ‘There’s something in the trees!’
They didn’t have to wait long before whatever was in the trees came down and in a blur attacked another one of the participants drenching him in his own blood before it sped away back into the trees in a blur.
In almost the same moment another participant was struck in much the same way. It seemed the creature’s speed was far above their comprehension but Haeru noticed something the others didn’t the angle from the attack would have meant the creature would have had to move in-between different trees, there would have been rustling from the branches from different trees than the ones that were moved.
He was the first to notice that there was more than one creature.
At this point his entire group was torn between trying to jump in and help and staying back, most of them realized that even if they jumped in at this moment since they couldn’t even force the creature to fight them on even terms than they really couldn’t do anything by themselves. Even Leo gave a signal to hold back and watch longer.
Haeru was pleased by that action but didn’t say anything more. He had long since been keeping an eye on Leo. Once he entered the academy he would have to make friends with others, and who he made friends with would likely determine the allies he would have not only at the academy but for his entire future. After a long period of consideration there had been few people if any that had caught his eye, and Leo was the only one in their group that he had considered. Damien was too brash and none of the others really stuck out. They were either too much like a fly on the wall, people that just wanted to blend in with their surroundings or trying to act tough and stoic throughout the exam.
Haeru continued to watch as he analyzed the attacks, but the fight if it could even be called that only turned more brutal making it hard to stomach.
Haeru signaled for them to move back and after moving enough distance began to discuss what they should do with the others.
“Let’s just all rush in and attack at once. At best we can kill the creature and at worst we can create an opportunity for the others to make an exit with us.”
“I say we just leave them, we came to help, but we agreed if we couldn’t we wouldn’t.”
Everyone suddenly had an opinion and it was either make a hasty attack or do nothing at all. Leo watched them all, and although he didn’t like Damien he was also of the mindset that if their best option was to make an all out rush attack then that was what they should do.
It simply wasn’t in his nature to stand by and watch people get slaughter by a creature that wouldn’t even fight them openly.
Haeru finally decided it was time to step in and show his skills, up to now he’d fought with two daggers and had enhanced them with mana as his fighting style. He’d been holding back, he had always been a magic user but had wanted to save his skills for when he needed them. His greatest flaw up until now was his inability to recuperate his mana quickly enough, and all of his attacks took too much mana to use carelessly. He’d been warned about how dangerous the forest was, and to constantly make sure to keep a few trump cards hidden and since they hadn’t been in the forest long he’d managed to keep all of his trump cards hidden.
“Okay. I have a plan. I have an attack that I can launch that will temporarily stun the creatures in the trees. Once they are stunned everyone will make a move at my command and rush in and attack. The only problem…. Is that it will take a while for me to ready the attack and for it to work, I need to observe the creatures for a while.”
A lot of them looked at Haeru like he was crazy. Although some of them had heard of his reputation and the family that he came from, no one honestly thought he could do something as amazing as he was promising. It was Leo that had a strange expression as he pointed out the thing he was most concerned about…
“Creatures? Are you telling me that there’s more than one?” He’d already been shocked by the creature’s speed, and now he was being told that he’d somehow missed that there were multiple creatures and he hadn’t even realized it?
Haeru nodded at him and then asked everyone the question he figured mattered most “If you trust me, we can do this. Worst case scenario we will either have to flee if I fail or rush in and attack carelessly like most of you wanted to do. In fact if I fail then you can either flee or rush in anyways so nothing changes. The real issue is whether you can all sit there and stomach the attacks of the creature as person after person falls prey to it as I prepare my attack.”
Everyone was either staring at Haeru or looking in the direction of the attacks, although they couldn’t see anyone from here they knew that it had already been rough for some of them to sit there and watch human blood get spilled so carelessly. Not everyone had a strong enough stomach to witness such a sight and continue uncaringly.
Leo only took a few moments before speaking up “I’m in. We’ve battled for days so far and you haven’t let us down yet. If you say you can do what you’re saying you can do than I believe you. I would rather try this and fail then leave with my tail tucked in-between my legs like some coward.”
Although Leo could have simply nodded to show his acknowledgement and willingness, he choose to verbalize Haeru’s worth to the others in order to motivate everyone else to follow along with the plan. The meaning behind his words didn’t go unnoticed by Haeru as he gave him a nod with a half-smile in approval.
Looking around he could tell that no one was moving, they were all looking at Haeru with courageous expressions. ‘It seemed a few words from this guy was all it took eh?’ Haeru thought to himself as he saw the determined expressions on everyone. ‘I wonder whether I could have had the same effect on everyone here if I’d said the same thing…’
Not dwelling on that thought, Haeru nodded back at everyone and moved in closer back to the positions they held before.