The Garesto Academy Survival Test, one of the practical exams held twice at the academy every year, is held at the beginning of June and December for three days. Its main subject is the hunting of raybeasts at the fields. It is a big event that requires all students to participate regardless of if they’re from the Normal Class, the Special Class, or the Technology Class. It is an exam meant to test the survival and combat abilities of the students against the raybeasts of the vast artificial nature.
The results from this exam will greatly affect the ranking of the students within the school. To the lower ranking students, it is a rare opportunity for them to quickly climb up the rankings. To the high ranking students, it is an opportunity to test their mettle. And to the newly enrolled first years, it will be their first official field battle. Due to the possibility of going up in ranking, all the students are tense and excited. Or at least, all of them except a certain male student.
“Fuhaa… I got to sleep until the very last moment, but I’m still so sleepy.”
At the area between the school campus and the vast artificial nature were the students lined up according to class. Among those students was a yawning boy with a sleeping small animal curled into a ball atop his head. No matter how biased one might be seeing that, it was evident that the boy had no interest in the exam.
But that couldn’t be helped, after all, because of all the spars that the boy had to do these past few days, he has already entered this place 20 times, and it was no longer new to him. He also didn’t have any interest in the ranking, so this place really held no significance to him.
To make things worse, surviving out in the wilds was an everyday routine for him until just a few months ago. That’s why it’s hard to fault him for not being tense or nervous. After all, the very factors that would lead to such feelings were completely absent.
Unfortunately, the other students couldn’t possibly know his circumstances, and so they glared at him sharply. Alas, the glares of the young boys and girls were no different from the rocks by the wayside to him. And just as usual, Shinichi didn’t feel like responding in the slightest.
“—Please do remember to prioritize safety as you challenge this exam. We hope that you all take care not to incur any heavy wounds.”
Naturally, the voice of the principal, who was standing right in front of the students, didn’t reach him either. Although, to be more precise, it wasn’t exactly from the principal himself that the sound was coming from, but rather from the giant display projected into the air. Moreover, part of the reason why Shinichi wasn’t listening was because this speech was needlessly long for perfunctory reasons.
“The overall supervisor of the exam will be Teacher Frire Doneju. I believe she has a few words to share. Teacher, please.”
“As you’ve heard, I will be the head supervisor substitute.”
When she appeared on stage, the atmosphere around the students changed, and Shinichi was no different.
The attention she was getting couldn’t be compared to the principal, and the gazes that fell on her ranged from defiant to intoxicated.
“…Seeing her like this, I guess she really is famous.”
But of course she didn’t look like this at all during their morning spars, so Shinichi just wryly smiled.
“The real teacher who’s been supervising this test for three years is feeling unwell, so I’ve been chosen as the substitute. We may be lacking hands because of that, but I intend to keep the test even stricter than the previous years, as well as ensure impartiality in the grading. So whether you’re an experience upper year student or a newly enrolled first year student, make sure to challenge this exam with all of your strength!”
To Shinichi it looked like she was working herself up too much to try and bluff the students, but to the other students, it was an amazing speech. There were even some who saw her as a godlike existence.
Part of the reason behind that is because Frire was in charge of the D Class, so other than those students, she didn’t really have much interaction with the other students. It was curious whether she noticed the reaction of the student body or not, but either way, she continued her explanations as the head supervisor of the exam.
“The rules haven’t changed, but I’ll explain them anyway according to precedent. First, the different classes will separate and go to their assigned areas. Your designated areas will be explained to you by your respective supervisors. How you will be graded will also be explained once you’ve reached your designated areas. Make sure you don’t let your guard down.”
As she explained the rules and reminded the students to take care, the screen changed to show a simple map of the fields.
The map was demarcated with various lines, and each area was labeled with a letter from A to D.
“The difficulty of the fields are as such. The higher the rank, the less suitable for human habitation. The raybeasts have already been driven into their respective area that’s suitable for its rank. You’ll be hunting the raybeasts in your respective areas, but the grading criteria will be left to your exam supervisor.
It could be based on the number of raybeasts you’ve hunted. It could be based off your crystal collection rate or your individual fighting ability or your ability to fight as a group. The criteria will be explained to you on the spot since what’s demanded of you will vary per class. Be sure to pay attention to that too.”
It was curious if it was because she was explaining the rules or because she was helping him, most likely it was the latter, but either way Shinichi actually paid attention to her speech. Because of that the students’ evaluation of her became even higher, but Shinichi didn’t know that.
“This test will test not only test your combat abilities but also your ability to adapt to a different environment. The first years should take extra care since they have little to no experience in the fields. It’s not unusual for a student to be unable to exhibit his abilities because of a change in environment. What you’ll be entering isn’t a truly natural area but a man made one, but make no mistake that it’s still a vast uncivilized world without regard to human will.”
Frire warned in a serious tone, as it was a very important matter, but it was curious if the students truly understood just how dangerous this place was.
“Of course, your supervisor will step in when necessary, but by then, your grades will be deducted. The points deducted will greatly vary on whether your supervisor had to stepped in because you tried to force an impossible situation or because something unexpected happened. I expect all of you not to overestimate your strength and move with a calm mind.”
“Marching, subjugating, and the ability to adapt, huh. That’s a rather greedy test.”
While the students raised their voice in affirmation to Frire’s words, Shinichi alone smiled.
The reason behind that smile was because he realized that despite them calling this a test, this was actually a way to give the students experience in live combat. If they didn’t have this test, the students mid-level and below will have little opportunity to gain live combat experience.
It was one thing to treat the higher level students differently, but it was another thing altogether if they didn’t give the students a chance to rise up in the rankings. After all, there were also students who could do well in actual combat while having bad grades. Hence, this test was basically a kind of relief prepared for those kind of students. Truly a greedy test.
“Each class will now enter the field one at a time. There’s a risk of opening the barrier too big, so we’ll have you enter by class one at a time. The special class should put on their exoskeleton and enter by air to save time. The opened areas are shown on your foster, so don’t make a mistake and accidentally crash into the barrier. That concludes everything I have to say.”
After Frire finished her explanations, the special class did as instructed, and a female student stepped forward.
She was a young beautiful girl unlike the other female students with her ringlet curls and ladylike appearance.
At her command, the students of the special class lined up with equal spacing between them and equipped their foster.
“After deploying the exoskeletons, I will stand at the head of the formation and enter the field. Do avoid putting on a shameful display as members of the special class.”
After giving a brief explanation and warning, she too put on her foster on her left arm, then pressed on the word ‘Stand By’ written in the Garesto tongue on her screen, and called out, “—Fortified Exoskeleton (Powered Armor), activate!”
The rest of the students followed suit and activated their exoskeletons.
In the blink of an eye, light covered each of the students, and their uniforms were returned to their foster. In their uniforms’ place, a body suit covered their bodies, and armor parts appeared on top of it. The various parts combined together and changed sizes until eventually it became a complete armor. Lastly, a circlet-like protector fitted itself onto their heads. All of this took place within that momentary flash of light.
“…So this is how transformation scenes look like when done in real life.”
The students that still didn’t have their own exoskeletons were all hyped up, so the only one who was able to observe the process of transformation properly was someone who didn’t fit in the rules. But his thoughts on the matter went a completely unexpected direction.
“But with this the special effects heroes will lose face… On second thought, maybe with this a real transformation would be possible?”
The exoskeletons used by the students were mass produced products that only differed a little in the shape of the circlets, but if someone made an exoskeleton that resembled a hero’s transformation, then perhaps…
Although Shinichi might be like this now, he was still once a child who admired heroes.
So to this day he still held that small dream of being able to enact those transformation scenes.
It’s also because of that that he firmly refuses to acknowledge his transformation as Masquerade as a hero transformation.
The armor the special class students wore didn’t fully cover their whole body from head to toe. Because of that when Shinichi looked at them, his eyes accidentally met with those of the ringlet curls girl, who was serving as the class representative.
As a result, she immediately puffed up her chest and flew into the sky as if to show off her current appearance. The rest of the special students followed suit and they all flew together toward their designated area.
“…What’s the deal with the ringlet curl armor?”
Alas, Shinichi’s attention wasn’t really taken by her graceful flight maneuvering. Instead his attention was on the equipment she was using to keep her ringlet curls in place.
Two small ringlet curls swayed atop her bountiful chest armor, but the rest of her hair were fixed into place behind her and were even equipped with something akin to a thruster to protect them.
“If she was going to go that far, she might as well have just changed her hairstyle…”
Shinichi felt like this was the most wasteful use of technology he’s seen so far.
Meanwhile, the other students were completely oblivious to that, as their attentions were fully devoted to the exoskeletons.
“Garesto’s power suits sure are amazing.”
“It must be amazing to wear a full armor like that.”
“One day I’ll wear a battle suit too just like them!”
There wasn’t anything wrong about being excited. Shinichi understood how they felt too. In fact, as an Earthling before the interaction with the otherworld, his fascination for the existence of these power suits was even greater than theirs in some places. It’s just that what he knew and what he feared made it impossible for him to be as innocently excited. Moreover, he found it strange that the terms they used to refer to the power suits varied.
“There’s no uniformity to it at all, is there? The least they could’ve done is decide on a fixed term… Or maybe the translation software translates it differently depending on how it’s expressed?”
Even the same sentence could be translated differently depending on the translator.
“Perhaps, that’s why,” Shinichi thought to himself as he caressed the intercom by his ears.
The assistant teacher, Frire, forcefully gave him this translation device a few days ago.
Given its function, it was enough for just one party to wear it for two parties to talk, but in places where two worlds are interacting, it’s considered a courtesy for everyone to have it equipped.
“Is this thing translating it twice, so the words end up different? Or are there just too many words to describe the power suits in Japanese?”
Armor. Full armor. Fortified Clothes. Power Suit. Jacket Armor.
If you include the more creative ways to refer to it, then there should be even more.
Shinichi suspected that that’s the reason why there’s no fixed term for it.
“You’re the type to ask questions and then answer them yourself, huh. You really are the kind of student to make teachers cry. Seriously.”
What’s worse is that he’s usually right, so he’s really hard to deal with, Frire wryly smiled.
Apparently, after she’d confirmed that all of the special class students were able to enter the fields safely, she went to where Shinichi was.
“Unlike the term for the raybeasts, the problem with the term for power suits didn’t come to light until much later. There are people trying to standardize the term, but people just have way too many different terms for them that even until now the term used by the translation software depends on when it was made.”
“And even Japan couldn’t figure out which term to use as the official term?”
“Yeah, there were even those who thought that maybe it was fine to just leave things this way.”
In Garesto they only had one term for it. And even if they knew that the Japanese language had many words with which to express the same thing with, they could’ve never expected that so many terms for their power suit would come out.
There was a suggestion to just the term used in the Garesto tongue, but it was too hard for the Japanese to pronounce.
“So the most they could do in 8 years was to realize there was an issue, huh… By the way, is it really okay for you to be here, head supervisor substitute?”
“Hmm, ahh, not yet.”
The students of the D Class were so fascinated by the march of the B Class that they didn’t notice Frire talking to Shinichi. Although the B Class’ equipment were inferior to special class, they were still things that the D Class rarely saw. But of course the biggest reason was because she took care not to be noticed when she approached Shinichi. That’s why he asked her if she had business with him, but Frire just made a troubled face and wryly smiled.
“I’ll tell you the details after the other classes enter the field.”
Whatever she had to say, she apparently didn’t want the other classes to hear it.
Realizing that, Shinichi continued watching the rest of the students march into the field.
Everyone else other than the first years seemed used to entering the fields by class. Among the students were two that stood out, and Shinichi inadvertently turned to them.
For some reason, they were looking at him too, so their eyes met. The girl turned away immediately, but the boy wryly smiled and gave an apologetic look. The Senba siblings. It seems that they’ve been asked to lead the entire B Class. Regardless, since they were the only ones wearing exoskeletons, they naturally attracted attention.
“Why are those two the only ones wearing exoskeletons?”
“Hmm? You mean the Senba siblings? Because they’re the top students of the B Class. Their promotion to the special class has already been mostly confirmed.”
Apparently, students like that are given exoskeletons to help them get used to them.
The students other than them do equip exoskeletons too when patrolling or during classes, but they didn’t have their own.
“That’s something amazing, isn’t it?”
Shinichi still didn’t understand the sense of value of those in the academy, so despite his good intuition, he didn’t understand just how amazing that was.
“Of course it’s amazing. It’s an unprecedented speed for an Earthling without any background. And that’s despite their public morals committee work slowing down their promotion. There are few people willing to become a member of the public morals committee, so most of the work is being thrown onto those siblings. Because of that they don’t have as much time to spare for their exams and training. If not for that, they would have already been promoted to the special class by their second year.”
But of course, their work at the public morals committee is also being appraised, so it’s still beneficial for them to partake in it.
“I see… They’ve really worked hard.”
He’d heard about their achievements, but seeing it right before his eyes was somewhat moving. Those twins that could only follow him from behind have gotten this far. When he thought of what they had to sacrifice to get that far, his chest ached. They probably couldn’t spend their school life as they pleased. They probably couldn’t even allow themselves to wonder if that was a good thing or a bad thing. That’s why the least he could do was to give a thumbs up to Yousuke and nod his head, as if to say, ‘Congratulations’.
“Alright, Nee-chan! Let’s do this! We’re going to aim for that perfect score!”
“H-Huh? Hey, what are you being so excited for all of the sudden!? Don’t push me!”
By the time Yousuke’s expression was all sparkles, the rest of B Class had already entered the fields, so all that was left was him and his older sister. Completely fired up, he pushed her into the fields and they entered together.
Meanwhile, Shinichi was troubled by how fired up he was.
“Was the little brother always like that?”
Shinichi was at a loss after seeing such a strange sight.
After that it was C class’s turn to enter the fields, and then the upper classes of the D Class. Gradually, the excitement of the students fell, and they finally started to realize that Frire was there. Frire didn’t react, however, and just patiently waited until only 1-D was left.
“Now then. The only ones left to enter the fields are you guys, but there’s something I need to inform you first.”
When they were the only ones left, she finally spoke.
The tone she used was heavy, and somewhere someway her expression even seemed apologetic as she looked at 1-D.
“As I’ve explained beforehand, I will be acting as the head supervisor in this exam, so unfortunately, I won’t be able to oversee your exam personally.”
The head supervisor was in charge of the overall management, coordination, and security of the exam. She needed to look over the entire exam and couldn’t focus on just one class. That’s why she couldn’t act as the examiner or supervisor for 1-D.
When Shinichi heard that, he immediately had a bad feeling, while the rest of the students clamored.
“T-Then who’s going to be our examiner?”
“There’s no practical skills teacher left.”
“Will a teacher from the technology department do it?”
“Teacher, you can’t mean we’re going to be left out of the exam, right!?”
“If you just give us a topic, we’ll do something by ourselves.”
“Stupid, we can’t enter that place alone!”
Having the teacher recognized as the strongest in their academy as their supervisor had inadvertently reassured them. So when they realized that she wasn’t going to be there, the fear of entering the fields suddenly became that much worse.
Frire herself was also a little shaken in the face of this clamor that never once appeared during their classes. It seems she wasn’t aware of just how reassuring her presence was to the class.
“Sigh… Don’t shout while the teacher is in the middle of talking, you donkeys.”
That’s why he laughed with such a cold voice and spoke loudly so that everyone could hear him.
When he saw Frire at the end of her wits’ from the corner of his eyes, he just shrugged a little.
“W-What was that!? You’re not participating anyway, so you shut up!”
“Yeah! If you don’t feel like doing the exam, then at the very least you shouldn’t get in our way!”
When the male students said that, the other students also agreed.
At that, Shinichi smiled and turned to Frire.
“Well then, please continue, Sensei.”
“…Seriously, you always do things so recklessly. You don’t even understand people’s feelings. Now it’s gotten even harder to say it.”
Shinichi had brought together the clamoring class by making them angry at him. In the face of that, Frire found her head aching, at a loss what to do.
“Ah, whatever, I’ll just say it, so you all better listen up! I understand your worries, but don’t worry, you won’t be left out of the exam, and neither will you have to enter the fields without supervision.”
But Frire knew that it was more important right now to explain what needed to be explained.
The class of 1-D was also relieved when they heard her words and listened closely.
“Unfortunately, the technology department don’t have any more teachers to spare, and of course, there aren’t any more practical skills teacher either. All of the special class students are also doing their exams, so it won’t be possible to get help from them either.”
Frire eliminated the candidates for the examiner that the students could think of one by one. And then after the list had been completely eliminated, she looked at the entire class of 1-D before stopping at a certain student.
“And so, because of that, as the head supervisor, I formally request that the student, Nakamura Shinichi, assist the class of 1-D.”
The moment Frire named their examiner, all of 1-D went quiet as if time had stopped.
There were various reasons for that. Some couldn’t understand what she’d just said, others thought that their hearing had gone bad, and then there were those that did understand but became petrified precisely because of that.
As for the person in question, his expression was wrought with shock as if someone had just betrayed him.
Of course, Frire hadn’t actually done this on purpose, but she still felt like she had finally gotten back at him, so she smiled.
“In other words, you be the examiner substitute, Nakamura. I’m counting on you.”
“HAAAaaaa!!!???” The class of 1-D yelled.
In that moment, the entire class of 1-D that has never really been united finally became one in thought.
—‘What is this person saying!?’ They all thought.