A line of students from the Royal Spada Academy climb the gentle slope of the hill, heading towards Iskia Fortress.
Leading this group of students are the members of Wing Road, who stand out even among hundreds of other students.
「Fuwah, I’m sleepy, and my hand hurts.」
Sitting atop his pure-white Unicorn, Nero voices such meaningless complaints.
No, they may not be completely meaningless.
The fact that the only part of Nero’s body that hurts is the palm of his hand means that he did not take any punches anywhere else. It is also evidence of the power of the punch, since it was strong enough to make his hand hurt, even though he used the Ancient Jujutsu at an expert level.
From these facts, one can see that the power of those two is fitting of their Rank 5 titles.
「You’re the one who went and had all the fun by himself, and that’s what you’re complaining about?」
With an even more dissatisfied face than Nero, Kai voices his own complaints.
「You should have let me fight him then, I don’t get to fight guys as strong as that old man very often!」
But it is too late for such words. The ones who had beef with each other were Nero and Gustav, and in that situation –
「Now my friend will be your opponent instead of me!」
If he had said that, he would be pathetic, like some delusional bastard who thinks he can become stronger by hiring bodyguards.
Nero has at least a small amount of pride as a man, so he would never say that.
「Hey wait a minute, you guys, where’d you go last night and what trouble did you cause?」
Their conversation is interrupted by Charlotte, her long twin tails swinging around as she sits on her horse behind them.
「Huh? What are you talking about? We were sleeping soundly in our tents last night!」
「Right, right! We definitely weren’t in the guild bar, starting a fight or anything!」
「You moron!」Nero and Charlotte say the same line simultaneously, but directed at different people.
「Wow, I can’t believe you guys! If you’d just gone out to drink some alcohol I’d have forgiven you, but starting a fight –」
「Your voice is too loud, Sharl. What will we do if a teacher finds out?」
「And whose fault do you think this situation is!」
「Oi, the one who started the fight was you, Nero!」
Continuing to ride a horse’s length away from the conversation of those noisy three, Safiel says,
「Really, you’re all morons.」
She murmurs quietly, sitting on the back of the false Sleipnir.
Wing Road is proceeding as usual today. Ahead of them, further up the hill, they can see the towering outline of Iskia Fortress.
Though it is an old fortress, its architecture is largely unchanged from current architecture, built as a roughly square-shaped, Spada-style castle.
There is a defensive tower in each corner, facing north, south, east and west, and the tops of the walls that join these towers have soldiers lined up along them. The walls are surrounded by a dry moat with no water, and the only entrance is a single drawbridge, which is currently raised. The castle gate across the drawbridge is firmly shut.
The ancient fortress on the country’s border has retained its former defenses to this day, waiting for a challenge from the young knights who bear the weight of Spada’s future on their shoulders.
Iskia Fortress was involved in the territorial wars that happened between Spada and Fauren over a hundred years ago, and is now an important historical site.
But it has now been over fifty years since the relation between the two countries changed from hostility to neutrality, then finally friendship. It is unlikely for the fortress to become a hellish battlefront once more.
「Souls of the brave soldiers of the past, may you rest in the requiem of the peace that you so longed for, for all eternity –」
「What’re you doing over there, Will, we didn’t come here to go sightseeing.」
「I humbly apologize, Simon-sama. It is one of his usual fits, please forgive him.」
The fortress has been repaired and maintained to this day, so at the very least, there is no concern that the walls will collapse in on them. As the sun sinks over the walls of the fortress, Wilhart looks out at it and speaks words that make no sense. They are met with a merciless response from two sides.
「But what’s with that pose! It’s embarrassing, so stop it already!」
「This is why the dignity of the royal Spada family is looked down upon, is it not? It is rather pathetic.」
In the face of this brutal attack, even Wilhart’s expression of wanting to pay his respects to a historic site crumbles.
「Tch, you boorish people who know nothing of the romance of history...」
He reluctantly steps down from the wooden box that he is standing on.
「Just because we entered the fortress without any problem, aren’t we being a little too careless?」
「Hmm, you’re make a good point.」
The students of the Royal Spada Academy arrived at Iskia Fortress ahead of schedule, even before sunset.
What Simon meant by「without any problem」is that even though they were traveling through a dungeon, there was not a single monster attack.
Sometimes humanoid monsters like Goblins and Orcs live in this fortress. In previous open-field exercises to the Iskia Hills, they had to clean up the monsters surrounding the fortress and lay partial siege to it before they could finally enter.
「It’s good that we didn’t run into anything yesterday, but for there to be nothing at all is actually a unsettling.」
「Mmm, we did not see even a single Centaur, let alone an attack, which is somewhat unusual.」
The most common monsters that populate the Iskia Hills are the half-human-half-beasts known as Centaurs. The top halves of their bodies are those of humans, while the bottom halves are those of horses.
The first monsters adventurers would normally encounter at this dungeon are Centaurs. In fact, it is common for the Centaurs to spot the adventurers first.
They hunt herds of Silent Sheep skillfully with their bows, and they are not a rare sight there.
「But even in past exercises, there were times where monsters weren’t encountered for three whole days, so it’s still possible that this exercise is like that.」
「You’re right. Well, tomorrow’s activities will depend on if we encounter any enemies –」
At that moment, they hear footsteps heading towards the two of them – no, the three of them, including Seria – and they reflexively look in the direction that they are coming from.
The one who appears is a young man wearing light armor, a knight cadet belonging to one of the groups that are under Wilhart’s direct command.
「Excuse me, Prince Wilha–」
「I told you to call me “your Excellency”, did I not!」
「Ah, don’t pay attention to that. Go on.」
Wilhart flips his red cape as if to show it off. Simon jabs him in the side with the stock of his rifle and gives a wry smile.
The brown-haired knight cadet has a bewildered look on his face, but opens his mouth to continue his report.
「The main headquarters has been established, please allow me to show you around!」
「Mmm, then I shall accept your offer, young knight Eddy.」
Wilhart’s response is bizarrely respectable, and the knight cadet is unable to hide the look of surprise on his face.
「Hmm, I thought your name is Eddy, am I mistaken?」
「N-no, my name is Eddy. I didn’t expect you to remember my name –」
「How could a leader not know the names of his subordinates? Using this grey brain of mine, I memorized the names and faces of all three hundred people participating in this open-field exercise in a single night!」
Wilhart laughs boastfully with his usual “FAAHAHA!” But this time, unusually, it is actually something worth boasting about.
「Well then, shall we go?」
「Yes, Prince Wi – Your Excellency!」
Following Eddy’s lead, Wilhart hums a tune, clearly in a good mood from being called “Your Excellency.”
Seeing his friend finally showing some respectable behavior, Simon relaxes and lets a cute smile appear on his face, showing no signs of caution.