The three girls with such intimidating looks were my seniors, and they were also older and taller than me. No wonder I’d feel intimidated and a bit scared, despite knowing that I might be able to get out of any trouble they might cause me, right?
Besides, this is the first time in my two lifetimes to experience it.
I gulped once as I tried to make a proper eye contact with them—eh, the one in the center, Briar.
After all, a proper eye contact is the good etiquette, right?
Should I also smile in this kind of situation?
Alright, let’s try to smile.
Oof, it seemed like my facial muscles were having cramps…
“How can you still smile leisurely like that?” The tomboy miracle twin, Dmitria asked with a rebuking tone.
“My, my, sister, take a closer look, her smile is stiff. She’s a bit intimidated, I see,” Valerie seemed to have sharper eyes as she laid out the truth.
“It’s good that she feels intimidated, then,” Briar-Rose contently smiled, agreeing to Valerie’s deduction.
She then broke her eye contact with me, crossed her arms in front of her chest, and walked slowly in front of me.
“Alrescha Lyra Hartmann… The one our prince has taken a fancy into. I wonder what does he see in you?” She asked.
…Like hell I know?
Even if I’ve already asked that question to Erneste himself and has his answers, I am still clueless…
“But I will try to honor Prince Erneste’s wish. Therefore, I challenge you to a battle!” Briar-Rose immediately turned to look at me with her sharp eyes and pointed her index finger at me.
…Uhm, yes, what? Battle? (O__O)
“I heard a lot about you. It will be very unfair for someone as powerful as you to have a match with our boss alone, right? In that case, let it be us 3 on you alone,” Valerie said as if it was a settled matter already.
Well, I won’t argue with that.
“So, come alone at this designated spot in the next Adventure class… If you’re not a coward, that is!” Dmitria handed over a piece of paper to me as she tried to taunt me.
The taunt was ineffective, though.
I received the piece of paper given and took a quick glance at it.
Written in such bold manner was…
We hereby declare a challenge statement to Alrescha Lyra Hartmann that will take place like stated below:
Time: Next Adventure Class
Place: The Dark Rainforest
(a map was drawn below it)
If you’re not coward and worthy of Prince Erneste, then come alone.
Arusha Briar-Rose Remus
Dmitria Bartlett Flugel
Thayne Valerie Flugel
Well, this is unexpected!
I thought they’d bully me around here, right now, without batting an eye.
To think they’d make this kind of a challenge letter instead…
They’re really first-rate villainesses… Ah no, they don’t have any underhanded tactics.
Which might be an indicator that they are actually not that bad.
“Okay, our business here is over. Let’s settle everything soon!” Briar-Rose announced as she turned around, leaving me.
“If you win, we won’t object to your relationship with Prince Erneste,” Dmitria said as she humphed and left.
“Fufu, this is going to be exciting,” Valerie made a comment and followed the other two.
I was left there speechless.
Relationship? Me? With who? Since when? Ahahaha!!
This is crazy O__O
Also, they are really treating Erneste as if he is a legit prince, huh?
Fun fact: I have never gained such treatment due to Luca, the rightful prince of the country…
Anyway, I folded the challenge letter and put it in my pocket.
As for what I’m going to do with it, well…
Of course, I accept their challenge!!
The D Day. Adventure Class.
“Lyra, are you sure about it?” Iris asked me with a worried expression on her face.
“Yep, I’ll go alone,” I nodded without any hesitation.
“What if something happens to you?! I’ll follow behind you!” Unexpectedly, Clavis said with a very concerned expression.
Yep, incidentally, this was yet another combined class.
“Hey hey, don’t, Clavis! I’ll be fine. If you follow me, they will have a reason to mock me or make things difficult for me. I don’t want that,” I immediately rejected the idea.
“But…,” he was still persistent.
“Let it go, Clavis,” Alt-nii lightly tapped on Clavis’ shoulder before he added, “Let’s believe in my little sister’s abilities. We all know how strong she is, right?”
“Yep, tell him, bro!” I encouraged Alt-nii.
He chuckled in response.
“They are right, Clavis. It’s going to be a piece of cake for Altaire’s little sister, right?” Harvey put his hand and perhaps all his weight on Clavis’ other shoulder as Clavis staggered a bit, unprepared to Harvey’s sudden movement.
“I haven’t skipped any training. Perhaps it’s all for this day?” I jokingly said.
“…What the…?!” Luca looked at me, eyes full of disbelief.
“I-I’m just joking, okay?!” When I tried to look at how bad of a joke it was, I felt slightly ashamed of myself.
“Big Sis Lyra, will you be fine?” Ein tugged on my sleeves and asked.
“Go get them, Lyr!” Carbuncle made a fighting pose to encourage me.
“Be careful, Lyra…,” Kiri said.
“Mm, yeah, just wait for me, I’ll be right back.”
With that settled, I separated from my group to the designated spot for the trio troublemakers’ challenge.
Also, I only told the challenge from them to this group. I decided not to reveal anything at home as I didn’t want to make my parents and my younger siblings worry or enraged or something.
I definitely can take this alone.
Even if it’s three on one, I’m certain I can win.
After walking for a while in the dark rainforest, I finally arrived at the designated spot.
The place was quite easy to spot since it had the most gigantic tree, the tall kapok tree, that was quite eye-catching. Incidentally, this tree marked the middle of the rainforest.
The tall kapok tree was located quite distant from the other trees, so as I left the dark shades of the other trees, I could see the brighter area around the kapok tree.
There, three familiar figures were already waiting.
“Hmph, so you’ve come!” Briar-Rose immediately saw me.
“Oh, quite daring, aren’t you?” Valerie sheepishly smiled.
“You’re late! Too slow! I was thinking that you might not come after all,” Dmitria complained.
Well, for one, there is no specific time indicator in the challenge letter, so you can’t really say that I’m late.
“So… How are we going to hold the match?” I decided not to comment on their earlier remarks and asked straight to the point.
“Glad you asked!” Valerie smiled.
“Do you know the Wetstone Cave?” Dmitria asked.
I wanted to say that I knew, since Alt-nii and the others showed me that place before… but well…
I’m also directionally challenged, so…
“…No worries, there’s a map feature here to navigate, right?” I didn’t say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, I only said that there was a map feature I could use.
Since the adventure fields were getting larger and more difficult to navigate in, we were provided a bracelet equipped with tracking and map feature. Plus, the school would be notified of our activities through this bracelet too, to ensure our safety.
“Alright, who cares if you don’t know anyway? That will only make things better for us,” Dmitria smugly smiled.
Whoaaa—hey, hey, don’t be so rude!
“Your mission is to get there and safely procure the obsidian jewel we placed there beforehand,” Valerie added.
…Hm? Just that? Wouldn’t that be easy then?
…Something feels fishy, I guess.
Acknowledging my silence as agreement, Briar-Rose opened her mouth.
“There are several rules set. First, we’re allowed to disturb you to achieve your goal. Second, you aren’t allowed to fight us back, but you may defend yourself and run. Third, the time limit is until the class is adjourned or until we managed to catch you. Are we all set?”
The rules, how to say it…? They seem unfair as I can’t fight them back, but when I take into account our power differences, it seems fair now.
Well, as long as they’re not harming me in any way, I guess it’s fine.
Navigating in this adventure field meant for Advanced Level students is already hard with high difficulty monsters as well. If I am not serious enough, I might get injured by the wild monsters. Just like before, I almost got injured.
But I’ve known the difficulty of this adventure field of this floor, more or less. So, I should be able to adjust my power and do better for next time.
Alright, no worries.
“Deal, let’s start now?” I asked.
The sooner it is over, the sooner I will feel relieved.
“Oh? Optimistic, aren’t you?” Valerie’s tone seemed to contain a hint of surprise, yet her facial expression didn’t show that at all.
“Hmph! Wait and see!” Dmitria seemed to be confident that I won’t be able to stay optimistic later on.
“Alright, then we’ll give you no more than 10 seconds to start moving before us. After that time is over… Well…,” Briar-Rose chuckled as her hand waved a strand of hair around her neck to the back.
“Begin from now. I shall count. 1…”
Whoopsies, no more time to be daydreaming. Off I go!
However, I was also curious on what trump cards they had in their hands.
Therefore, I didn’t run to the Wetstone Cave quickly. Instead, I only walked in a quicker pace.
The Wetstone Cave is located not too far and not too close from this place.
I stopped for a while as I tried to make sure that I was moving in the right direction.
Ten seconds passed by in the blink of an eye.
I turned around to look back at the trio troublemakers, wondering what they were up to and whether they could chase me in no time when…
I felt a gust of wind blowing so suddenly that I couldn’t help but gaze up instead, before I could even spot any of the trio troublemakers. It was a reflex, okay?
And there—my eyes widened in a genuine surprise.
For you see, there was a strange monster beast that you would not normally find here.
Its body was more or less similar to a stag’s, but its back legs and tail were of a bird’s, along with its large and sturdy wings.
The stag part was of brown fur, while its plumage’s color was shades of red. Its tail was long and beautiful, as its color gradually turned into fiery red color the more it approached its tips, looking as if its tail could burn everything it touched.
Then, its antlers were grey, looking like a sturdy metal.
Yep, it was a creature known as [Peryton].
A beautiful one, on top of it.
But actually, that wasn’t the most surprising part, as I could still rationale it as a very rare beast that could still show up or spawn in this adventure field.
The most surprising fact was the person who was riding on the back of the peryton.
Brown skin, fluttery dark pink hair that was put on a side ponytail, and a menacing aura.
Yup, she was none other than Dmitria Bartlett Flugel.
Alright, this was totally unexpected!!
“So? Feeling any regret yet? Feeling less optimistic now, aren’t you?” Dmitria had a smug smile on her face.
I wanted to answer, ‘Eh, not really,’ but then I suddenly realized that with her on a peryton on me, on my own legs…
I… I should have really used the 10 seconds time they gave me more seriously, right?!
Aaaaa, if only I knew things would turn out like this!!
However, there was no time to regret.
I immediately switched my remorseful brain to its thinking mode.
Think, Lyra. Think, Reinst. Think, myself. What’s the best approach to all possible scenarios with Dmitria on a peryton?
What can you do?
But before something really popped up in my mind, Dmitria’s warning voice could be heard.
“Get ready for regret!”
Eeeeh, who’d like a regret, huh?!
Alright, I’ve decided on the best approach.
Use every reflex I have, and spontaneously try to think up ways to overcome all the hurdles.
Yep, I have magic to use, too. That should give me plenty of choices already.
I immediately put on some magical enhancement so I could run as fast as I could.
With Dmitria riding on a peryton like this, she would be able to catch up to me in no time.
“After her, Shula!”
Dmitria’s voice echoed behind me, followed by the peryton’s growl of assent.
Then, the gust of wind could be felt again.
I tried to locate their shadow, but it was quite dark in this field, so… yes, no shadow.
“Shula, block her way over there!”
With Dmitria’s command, suddenly, I felt heat to my right side, exactly the direction I was going to move to.
Mm, my path is now blocked, but…
I could actually take another path to reach the same destination, but this one was more convenient. Therefore, I decided to break through the way anyway.
The flames beside me were spout out by Dmitria’s peryton (I needed to ask for an explanation from her later on, like, where the heck she got that peryton from?), who seemed to be named Shula. However, I put just enough amount of magic power to manage to freeze the flames.
“…! Shula, burn the ices with a stronger fire!”
I was about to break the ices myself and jump through it when I heard Dmitria’s command. Not wanting to be burnt alive, I decided to let the idea go.
And so, my ice was burnt by Shula’s flames, leaving me no choice but to move to another path.
Actually, I could insist on doing it over and over until Shula could no longer burn my ice, but it would be too tiring. Besides, Dmitria seemed to want to direct me to another path, so… Let’s see what she had in store~
The other path was a more humid path of the forest, crowded with trees and possessed a more eerie atmosphere. More monsters were bound to appear in this area, it seemed.
Just right when I thought about it, a wild beast appeared right in front of me. It was similar to the chimeric monster I encountered before, but… no matter.
I unsheathed my beloved sword and swung it against the monster as I poured my ice magic in it.
Ice shards appeared along with a freezing cold wind from my sword. They rapidly attacked the beast right in front of its face.
“Grrr!” The beast roared in agony.
I poured more magic to my sword, enhancing it with ice element even further as I enhanced the speed and power of my own body.
Because I knew how strong the monsters around this level of adventure field, I already knew what I should do to defeat them quickly.
I decided to try out one of the attacks I had been practicing and made perfect for quite a while.
Combining both my magic and swordsmanship prowess, I would unleash this [Ice Slash] that should be able to defeat this beast in one go.
The monster beast didn’t just stay obediently, it wanted to retaliate, as expected.
Therefore, it jumped and aimed its ferocious fangs to my body.
However, I immediately jumped behind to dodge its attack. As soon as my feet landed, I dashed forward again to unleash the [Ice Slash] I already prepared.
It was now, while the beast was still trying to change its stance to attack me again.
-The cold wind that I came to love could be felt around my surroundings, my ponytailed hair was blown backward as I swung my sword forward.
As expected, the sword managed to slash the monster beast just fine. The monster beast howled as I continued to push my slash forward.
As its flesh was slashed, the cold aura that my sword emanated caused the beast’s body to be covered in ice.
Then, eventually, I managed to slice the monster beast in two.
Before I dashed forward again, towards the Wetstone Cave, I noticed that Dmitria and her peryton, Shula, was also fighting against another monster beast behind me.
However, they seemed to have no intention of killing or defeating the monster away. They only tried to chase the monster away, intimidating it with Shula’s fire.
Anyway, their safety seemed to be guaranteed, so I needed not pay them any heed. I should just advance.
At an intersection, I obviously picked the more convenient path and dashed forward…
When suddenly, Shula and Dmitria appeared, blocking my way.
I was thinking on how I could slip my way through them when Shula suddenly burnt all the opening I saw.
As if it wasn’t enough, Dmitria commanded Shula to continue doing that, leaving me with no choice but to withdraw from their fire and move along the other path.
But arrrghh, this path would require me cross through a lake, it was quite a large lake, wouldn’t I be too tired if I were to continue here?
My fickle mind immediately decided I should just freeze the fire and stop Shula from burning any other path I could take, but then…
I saw how much fire Shula generated, and stopped.
Basically, Dmitria commanded Shula to really confine my path and left a trail of flames around their way.
If I were to freeze the flames… well, the amount of efforts I exerted would more or less be the same if I were to pick the other path they directed me to.
Therefore, I should just obey them and be led by them.
Still, Dmitria’s peryton’s power was quite something, huh?
I noticed how it managed to control its own fire so that it won’t start a huge fire, and how its fire managed to strive even in this humid environment.
As Shula continued to burn the path behind me, I walked and walked and walked… until I reached a narrower path that would 100% lead me to the lake.
I enhanced my vision with magic and narrowed my eyes to see what lied beyond the path… and immediately detected an eerie lake.
Alright, that’s the lake. After crossing it, the Wetstone Cave shouldn’t be too far away from it… But then again, the lake is quite huge…
When I saw that the flames behind me didn’t seem to be catching up already, I slowed down in order to think of my next strategy.
As I pondered over it, I suddenly noticed one thing and quickly turned behind to ascertain it.
Oh my god, Shula and Dmitria weren’t behind me!
Then, I felt heat from the path in front of me and immediately turned around again…
Only to see Shula and Dmitria in front of me.
The path in front of them was already burning.
Shula had already landed, while Dmitria quickly got down from her peryton.
“Heh, not bad. But now, you’ll be caught and it’s all over! It’s your lose!” Dmitria said with a smug smile on her face.
“Hrrr!” Shula growled, as if it was agreeing with its owner’s words.
I turned behind me to look at the sea of flames Shula and Dmitria caused.
Then, I turned in front of me again to see the figure of a girl and a peryton, with flames dancing around behind them as their background.
Shula’s reddish fur looked even more beautiful with the flame background.
Dmitria’s smug look, for some reason, I felt that it was enhanced by the flames as well.
“So, want to admit not that you lose?”
Dmitria asked again, still with her smug smile.
To be honest, it didn’t really matter to me whether I would be forbidden from approaching Erneste again or not, but… it would be troublesome if I were to lose now, then have Erneste approach me again, and then get into another problem with the trio troublemakers due to it.
Another reason: I don’t want to lose.
If that’s the case, then…
How should I escape from this predicament and continue forward?
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