Yuki and his team along with the other teams were rounded up and marched into the Academy. Mabel led them to the Meadow where what seemed to be a giant aircraft was docked. It looked to be a sort of hybrid between an airplane and a helicopter. Made of metal, it had two pairs of wings that made an X and a body that was similar to those of military transport helicopters.
‘Those look to be jet engines. Is this thing a hovercraft? I would like to see how this works.’
[I’m sure that one of those trucks we’ve raided has a jet engine in them,] Akira piped up.
‘Oh, you were listening.’
[I didn’t have much else to do. I’m taking a break from some research.]
‘Research? On magic?’ Yuki asked.
[No, something else. I think I told you about it already.]
‘If you did, I’ve already forgotten what it was.’
[I was doing an investigation into the identity of a Erik Olsen,] Akira explained. [It hasn’t been very productive, so I’m just doing it in my spare time.]
‘Ah, I remember now. So you’re on a break now.’
‘I see. Well, enjoy your break. There isn’t much going on right now. I’m going to disconnect.’
[Alright. Have fun.]
Yuki dampened the mental connection between him and Akira and refocused on his surroundings. Mabel was loading students onto what Yuki assumed was a hovercraft. She was dividing them into their teams and having the entire team go in one by one. Near Yuki, Jared and the rest of his team were chatting with each other. Yuna was only listened and didn’t seemed to participate in the conversation.
‘I wonder where we’ll be taken in the forest.’
Mabel gestured toward Yuki’s group and they were the next group to board the transportation. When Yuki ducked a bit to go through the entrance, he noticed that the students already inside were scattered about.
‘I guess they’re letting us sit wherever we want.’
With that, Yuki took a seat next to a side exit that was located by a window. His team followed him somewhat and sat around where he was. Yuna sat right next to him on the other side of the door.
Yuki watched as the rest of the students entered the hovercraft. He turned his attention briefly to the conversation that his team was having. It was about some famous singer that Yuki didn’t know and he soon grew bored with the conversation. He returned to his vigil of the entrance to the hovercraft and noticed that Mabel had just walked in.
“Are there any teams missing members?” she asked. No one replied. “I hope this silence means that everyone is here. I don’t want any one of you students to start off at a disadvantage.”
She turned her head toward where the cockpit of the hovercraft would be.
“We’re ready to go,” she said.
“Understood,” Raphael replied. “Enroute to Libra Forest.”
Yuki felt a slight vibration run through the hovercraft and it lifted up into the air gently. There was no imbalance, no wobbling. The craft rose up as smoothly as a balloon. Yuki looked outside the window and saw the engines tilt and propel the craft forward.
‘I need one of these. This is a really smooth ride for a flying vehicle. I can ask Uriel to pilot it like how they’re using Raphael.’
“So there are a few things that I have to say before you are all dropped at your designated location,” Mabel began. “Do all of you know of your respective mission and all of the details about that mission?”
The students nodded.
“Perfect. Well, as I said before and detailed in the email sent to you all, you will be given two days to complete your task. You will be by yourself with only your team to accompany you as you go through the forest to find your mark. We, the staff, will be monitoring you all. Everything you do, we can see it so please refrain from cheating. I would hate to have to fail any of you. Is this all understood?”
Again, the other students nodded their heads.
“Good. Now let me tell you all the small part of this little test that we didn’t mention before,” Mabel smiled. “Once your task is complete, we’re not going to pick you up.”
Immediately, sounds of protest and complaints rang out from the students. Yuki didn’t react at all. This was something that he was suspecting already. If the point of the assignment was just to kill monsters and cooperate as a team, then there were many ways to test for that. They wouldn't need to be dropped into a forest as large as the Libra Forest. This type of test could be done using a small hunting ground.
‘They also didn't include how they were going to retrieve us in the initial email. So this isn't that big of a surprise.’
“Why are you all complaining? Did we ever say that when you finished your task, we were going to drop by and give you a ride back to the Academy?”
No one answered.
“Being able to kill a monster means nothing,” Mabel said, her expression grave. “All that says about you is that you can kill. You have two days to complete your task. You will have the next five days to escape from the forest.”
“Five days? That’s a lot of time,” Joseph whispered.
‘I don’t think he knows how large the Libra Forest is.’
The Libra Forest was the second largest forest in all of Ethros; it was topped only by the Kiera Forest which was its own country. The Libra Forest encompassed an area that was roughly a third of the entire country of Libra. That made it about one million square miles. The Kiera Forest was double that size.
‘So five days is going to cut it very close. And we probably didn’t bring enough food. Well, the good thing is they probably won't drop us too deep into the forest. Otherwise we'll need a lot more than five days.’
“In order for us to officially say that you have escaped the forest, you will all have to arrive at the rendezvous point. On your seventh day, there will be a hovercraft much like this one waiting for you. You have completed the test once you have boarded. If you fail to arrive on time, I’m sorry to say that you’ll have to find yourself a different way home.”
Yuki glanced around at the faces of the other students in the cabin and noticed that many had grave expressions on their faces along with clenched fists.
‘It seems that this new piece of information has motivated a lot of people.’
“Does everyone understand? Are there any questions?” Mabel asked, looking around the cabin. “No? Then I wish you all good luck. I will be announcing when each team will be dropped off. The first team is Jared’s. Please stand up.”
Jared stood up and the rest of Yuki’s team followed him. Yuki stood up as well and waited for Mabel to continue with her instructions.
“Now, under your seat is a backpack. Please put that backpack on,” she said.
Yuki reached under the seat he was sitting on just a few minutes ago and pulled out a black backpack. The backpack was quite small and had a little cord that extended out from the straps.
'It looks like a parachute of some kind,' Yuki thought as he shouldered it on. 'Are we going to be jumping out?'
“Your location is going to be here in about twenty seconds,” she announced. “Remember everything I told you and good luck out there.”
She slammed her fist on a button next to her and the door beside Yuki opened up, the sudden change in pressure momentarily making Yuki lose his balance. He peered outside and saw clouds and a sea of dark green.
'Since we're the first team, I guess we might be the closest to the border of the forest. That's good.'
“Wait, what are you doing, Instructor Mabel?” Jared asked, panic filling his voice.
“We’re dropping you off. The drop point is approaching in ten seconds,” she replied, a smile on her face. “I hope you’re not afraid of falling.”
“Approaching drop site in five seconds,” Raphael announced.
“I didn’t sign up for this!” Natalie half screamed and half complained.
“Ah, fuck,” Benjamin remarked at the same time. This was the first time Yuki heard him speak today.
“Bye kids,” Mabel waved to them.
Yuki walked to the door and turned his back toward the exit. He raised his hand and gave a slight wave to Mabel before he launched himself out of the door. A moment later, he heard the screaming of his teammates as they followed him.