== CE 1277.
The 12 years old Ernesti Echevalier and his childhood friends, the twins Archid Olter and Adeltrud Olter has moved on to middle school of the Knighthood faculty. Their other childhood playmate, the dwarf Batson Termonen, remained in the Crafting faculty. Due to Eru’s influence, Batson has shown interest in the career of Knightsmith. The two of them can sometimes be seen together, talking about Silhouette Knights design and operation knowledge.
As for Ernesti, he has been taking classes about Silhouette Knights but unrelated to Knighthood ever since he enrolled in Laihiala Pilot Academy. Eru has completed all the courses in the Crafting faculty after attending their classes for three years. After satisfying his thirst for knowledge, he is now unofficially attending Pilot faculty classes.
Since Laihiala is a 'pilot' Academy, the Piloting faculty is the star of the institute. Only the best graduates from Knighthood middle school may gain entry into the Piloting faculty. Although it is generally known as the Piloting faculty, not everyone enrolled here has Knighthood background. The Knight runner won't be able to move the Silhouette Knight alone, it is still a machine that requires crew to maintain and service.
The pilots will learn about control and manoeuvre. The craftsmen learns to construct and maintain the outer skin, as well as the inner skeleton. The alchemists train in the art of crystal tissue creation and repair. The sigilmancers focus on the preparation of the Silhouette arms. The various faculties in middle school are collectively known as the Pilot faculty in high school.
With this background, the education policy of the Pilot Academy trends towards practical application. They familiarise themselves with the skills and techniques by piloting the Silhouette Knights owned by the academy. Laihiala Pilot Academy possesses 20 Silhouette Knights, a number that is more than adequate to man a fortified outpost on the frontlines. But they are the retired models Salodrea machines that are second rate in abilities.
These Silhouette Knights has been repaired countless times over the long years, and each of them are used by several piloting candidates for training. The repeated usage has worn down the machine and it requires frequent maintenance checks, a heavy burden on the students, but also great experience for real world application. Organisation hiring Piloting faculty alumni comments that the fresh graduates has the ability to work on the frontlines immediately.
On the training ground of Laihiala Pilot Academy, a mock battle between Silhouette Knights is ongoing.
In the middle of the stone building, a red machine is engaged in battle with a white machine. They have blunt sword used for training spars in their hands, battling fiercely. The machine provided by the school has reinforced armour around the pilot seats, a design which focuses on the safety of the pilots. But a Silhouette Knight going all out is still very dangerous, so the equipment is nerfed to restrict its damage. Standard equipment is only used in practical training battles against Demon beast.
There are no empty seats on the wall surrounding the arena. All sorts of people are watching the duelling Silhouette Knights from the spectators’ seats. Training with only brawls is not real training; the analysis of the fight is indispensable. There are people recording the battle logs, studying the skills of the pilots... some are allocating maintenance spare parts as the damage piles on; some of them are observing the effects of the magic arsenal.
Most of the people present are high school students, but there is a small figure that is out of place here. Not only is the person short, he also has a cute face that is easily mistaken for a girl. That person is Ernesti. Because his stature is small, he is occupying the front seat so his vision won't be obscured by others, staring at the Silhouette Knights intensely.
He skipped the Knighthood faculty classes he is supposed to attend, overcoming all obstacles to earn the right to be exempted them. He is unorthodox in his actions, but is strangely law abiding in some areas.
In the beginning, Eru uses his cute appearance and mascot like character to gain entry. He was planning to watch quietly from the side, but he is now observing the battles and repairs up close, finding more places he can chip in. From the way he can easily keep up with the conversations of his seniors, his preparation in the last three years did not go to waste.
Getting practical first-hand experience and knowledge outside the classroom made Eru extremely happy. Apart from greedily taking part in all sorts of work processes, he is very interested in the training battles. The Silhouette Knights ― giant robots fighting before his eyes draws out indescribable emotions within him. The giant machines that emulate a knight in armour bash at each other with iron limbs wielding mammoth swords, even shooting powerful projectile spells. Eru observes the training battles with passionate eyes, not missing a single movement.
As a side note, there was a rumour that a guy was almost pulled into a twisted world after seeing the pretty boy, who can be mistaken for a girl, blushing while watching the Silhouette Knights with longing eyes.
"Eh, seems like Di will lose again."
Piloting faculty student... Helvi Öberg mumbles as she records the battle logs, a breeze blowing across the arena messes her short and curly hair.
The situation of the battle before them is clear, the red knight is struggling. Its dual wielding blades and on the offense, but it didn't break through the white knight's defense.
"Hmm, what do you think about this battle, Eru?"
Helvi, who has been glancing at the data in her hands asked Eru, who was sitting obediently beside her. Their eyes remained fixed on the arena at all times.
"The speed of Guyale's sword is slower than before. I think that is the reason why he missed the opportunity to score points off attacks."
"... I see. Now that you mentioned it, his attacks seem too casual. I thought the condition of the Knight runner is not too good. What went wrong?"
"The movement of the right arm seems sluggish. I think it is because the joints or crystal tissues have been replaced."
Helvi browses through the documents in her hand and confirms the maintenance report of the red machine named Guyale. The record states, due to signs of stress and fatigue in the crystal tissues of the right arm, it has been replaced this morning. The movement probably seems rigid because the parts are not aligned. She found the reason behind the sluggish actions of Guyale, but she couldn’t tell that that the condition of the right arm is bad. Helvi moans Eru's passion and attention to detail when watching training battles is better than those actively engaged in it. She found it amazing and wonders where his passion stems from. The white machine fighting Guyale in the arena, Earlecumber, fended off the attack and stabbed at the Guyale's chest. The horn sounded, signalling the end of the battle. The instructor judged that the spar has been won by Earlecumber. Guyale couldn’t overcome its bad condition in this battle.
The machine that was battling just now enters the workshop situated near the arena, and the pilots exited the Silhouette Knights.
The pilot of the white Earlecumber was Edgar C. Blanche, a tall and dignified man. Similar to his appearance, he is mature and steadfast, an elite among the pilots.
The red Guyale is manned by Dietrich Cunitz. Unlike Edgar, he has long blonde hair, a meek and skinny man. His abilities are top notch, but he tends to get nervous and loses his head easily over small matters, his performance is inconsistent. He seemed frustrated because he lost the match.
He started squabbling with the maintenance crew the moment he got off the machine. Instead of discussing the issue, they are pushing the blame onto someone else, even the bystanders know they won't make any headway. Helvi couldn’t stand it and butts in. She explained her findings about the arm to settle the meaningless quarrel. But Dietrich's expression lit up mid-way and smiles sarcastically. In contrast, the maintenance crew looked annoyed.
"Oh, no wonder the movement is so rigid. Maintenance is skimping on the repairs."
Dietrich is suggesting 'losing is not my fault'. Edgar standing nearby advises him sternly:
"Di, that's going too far. If the arm is not functioning well, you should adopt a different style in your fight. It’s fine if you lose after trying, but your movement seems unfocused today. It is not right to blame it all on the maintenance crew."
Dietrich's sarcastic smile disappears after being lectured in front of everyone.
"You only won because my machine's performance is sub-par, don't get cocky."
"The content of the spar is more important than winning. I am just saying that you should reflect on that."
"Is that so? Why don't you operate a faulty machine in our fight next time?"
Dietrich left in angry strides after uttering these words with a sour face. The people in the work shop have gotten used to this and simply shrugged. Eru, who was watching from the side-lines made a perplexed face and Helvi patted his head for some reason. The school bell rang, announcing the end of class and to start preparing for the next lesson. Eru was unhappy that the fun time is over, but still bowed to Helvi and rushed back to the Knighthood faculty.
Eru have no idea what his classmates in middle school are talking about, there seems to be some events. He must have missed something if the whole class is talking about it. Probably because he is spending so much time in pilot school.
"I'm sorry, I have no idea. Can you tell me what this is about?"
Eru said with a troubled expression. His classmates look at each other for an instant, and all of them started explaining at the same time. Maybe they enjoy talking to Eru, or they felt excited when speaking with Eru. It requires tremendous patience to summarise the jumbled contents, but it can be filtered down to these main points.
- In order to accumulate practical experience in fighting Demon beast, all three grades of Knighthood middle school will be participating in a field trip.
- The destination will be the region of Jantunen, the forested hill home to small Demon beast.
- The first years will be focusing on the basics of camping and wilderness survival skills.
- For safety, Pilot school will be sending several Silhouette Knights as escorts.
"I see, it will be conducted two weeks from now."
"Hey, did you only find out about it today?"
"That's what I thought. You keep going~~ to high school right? You don’t come~~ back much anyway."
Eru tilt his head perplexedly. Chid seems shocked, but Ady looked unhappy. Eru has been reporting to Piloting faculty during class and after class, the time he spent training with Chid and Ady have been dwindling.
"Ady? Are you in a bad mood?"
"Not~~ really. Totally not. You are mistaken, right?"
But the way, Ady is crossing her arms and her strong tone seems to be announcing 'I am very unhappy'.
"I don't think I did anything wrong. What did I do?"
"That's right~~ you didn't do anything. You are not here most of the time anyway~~"
This is what a hopeless situation means. Eru has no idea what he should do and requests Chid for aid with his gaze. Chid seems to acknowledge that and changed the topic forcefully.
"We will split into teams for the field trip. Eru, which group are you joining?"
"Ah, about this..."
Eru glance at Ady who couldn’t hide her curiosity and said:
"If there are no special arrangements, I would prefer forming a group with the three of us. From the sounds of it, the first years will be concentrating on the basics, so grouping up casually should be fine."
"Oh― we will be staying together then..."
Ady's mood has obviously improved. She went behind Eru and put her arms around his neck in a hug like usual.
No matter how old I am, I don't get women...
Including the memories from his past life, Eru looked at Ady with his wealth of life experience and felt a chill. About two weeks later, Ernesti and the others prepared to go on their field trip under the clear blue sky.
Large communal horse drawn carriages are parked in front of Laihiala Pilot Academy. The middle school students gets onto the carriages under the direction of the instructors.
"Take care of yourself―"
Batson from Craftsman faculty is not participating in the field trip. The Knighthood trio walks towards the carriage after Batson bid them farewell in a nonchalant tone.
"Eru, Eru, this way!"
"Don't rush; the carriage won't leave without us."
The destination of the field trip is a place called 'Cloquet's Forest'. That place is covered in forest and is slightly elevated, filled with Demon beasts that are relatively weak. Carriages are used for the long trip after considering the strength of the Demon beasts. Cloquet's Forest is a suitable place that meets the requirement of the field trip. According to the route planned, they will swing by Jantunen to resupply before heading into Cloquet's Forest, which is nearby.
After all the students are seated, the carriages set off one by one. The long caravan of carriages advanced steadily on the road.
The ten Silhouette Knight escorts spread out along the convoy. They are piloted by the high schoolers from the Academy. The dark red and pure white machines, Guyale and Earlecumber are here too.
The Silhouette Knights used by the Academy are donated from the military. After the long years of maintenance by the students with free reign, their appearance has become unique and interesting. Some have meaningless and complicated patterns engraved on its armour, while others has eerily big accessories added onto its head, and there are armours that are pieced together in a weird pattern. The machines have been customised deeply, giving a 'that's too exaggerated' kind of feeling. The exoskeleton comes in all sorts of colours, having an elegant air about it, instead of being fierce and mean.
There are many Knighthood majors participating on the field trip. Although middle school is full of kids, they are still candidates striving to be knights, so there shouldn't be any problems if they meet the attacks of normal Demon beasts. Even if this is a field trip, they can't be spooked by small Demon beasts. Within the Kingdom of Fremmevira, mid-sized Demon beasts about a dozen metres still lurk in the forest and mountain regions, and they might run into them on the road. The Silhouette Knights are the insurance against unexpected attacks.
"I thought we will have a chance to fight Demon beasts, but it turns out to be a boring trip."
Dietrich Cunitz who is riding in Guyale complains loudly. Although they are here as a safeguard, there has been no major incidence on this road for the past several years. Although the Knight runners have been assigned the mission of 'long distance manoeuvre training', this is a trip that has nothing to do with tension or motivation.
"Hey, I know how you feel Di, but you can't say such things."
Helvi Öberg who is piloting the Silhouette Knight 'Trandorches' instead of working as a battle logger reminds him. There are microphones inside the pilot seat, and the sound inside will be broadcast loudly through external speakers if it is not turned off. It is amplified to ensure the message is not drowned out by the noise of the Silhouette Knights in operation, so it is possible that a middle schooler might have heard him.
"Both of you take this seriously. Even if nothing happens, this is still part of our training."
Earlecumber caught up to Guyale and Trandorches, the voice of Edgar C. Blanche can be heard booming from the Silhouette Knight.
"As expected from the top pilot, such high end content."
"Di, didn't you hear what I said?"
"Ah ― keep it down you two, everyone can hear you."
Guyale and Earlecumber fell silent after hearing Helvi and returned to their positions. Helvi felt uneasy about the days ahead while she is piloting Trandorches.
They are not the only ones who don’t know how to kill time.
"I know it can't be help, but this is too boring."
After rocking in the carriage for about half a day, Chid is bored out of his mind. Not only Chid, the students around him are feeling the same. They are four days away from their destination, and with their transportation taken care of by the carriage, the students on board have lots of free time. They can talk freely, but they are growing tired of the cramp space on the carriage, which can't be help.
"Do you want to look at the scenery outside? The scenery outside is interesting."
"No, the only one who is satisfied with watching the scenery is you. And you are really tenacious, how long do you plan to watch that?"
Chid looks at Eru with tired eyes. Eru stops gazing at the scenery and turns back, sitting properly on his seat. He looks really cute with his head slightly tilted while deep in thought, relieving the atmosphere instantly.
"Want to read the books I brought along? I think you can kill time this way."
"Books... I want to stretch my body. Eh, never mind. What have you got?"
"Theories on Alchemy, volume 1."
"Is that a textbook? Isn't it better to sleep then read that?"
"You are right, but there is really nothing to do here. Why not follow Ady’s example and take a nap?"
Ady is sleeping soundly in front of Chid. Her peaceful face that has nothing to do with boredom makes Chid look up to the sky. He maintained that position and suddenly thought of something.
"Eh, it's a great way to kill time right?"
They climb on top of the carriage. The top is full of the students’ luggage. Unlike the inside of the carriage, there are no seats here, but there is no problems sitting down.
"The scenery here is better."
The carriage advanced leisurely under the clear blue sky, the top of the carriage feels nice and peaceful. A breeze made Eru's silver hair sway. He found a nice seat among the luggage and entered scenery appreciation mode.
"Ah― this is still boring. But it is nicer than the inside of the cramp carriage."
Since there is nothing to do, napping under the sky sounds interesting. Chid didn’t care anymore.
"Ah, so you guys are here."
Ady poked her head out from within the carriage.
"You woke up?"
"Yeah, you guys are gone when I got up."
Ady made her way to Eru's side as she spoke, and lied on his thigh, getting in position to sleep.
"The sun is so warm, it feels better sleeping here."
"Sleeping is fine, but why are you using my lap as your pillow?"
"It's feels nicer this way."
As Eru was at a loss, Ady has begun her journey into dreamland. Eru couldn’t do anything about her and started reading, looking out at the scenery occasionally. Chid ponders about stuff for a while, but thinks it’s too bothersome and gave up, using a luggage as a pillow to nap.
Their leisurely journey continues at this pace. After rocking for three more days on the horse drawn carriage, the group from Laihiala Pilot Academy finally arrived at the largest city of central Fremmevira ― Jantunen.
There is a reason why Jantunen ranks amongst the top cities in the Kingdom. It lies along the route that leads to the west of Fremmevira and beyond the Aubigne Mountain Range. It is also the transit point for supplies leading to the frontline fortress to the east of Fremmevira. As an important transport hub, its defences are second only to the Capital, surrounded by siege walls and moats. On top of that, there is a large band of knights equivalent to a company (100 Silhouette Knights) garrisoned here. No matter how crucial this city is, there is too much military force for one city. But they are stationed here because of Jantunen's strategic location, allowing them to reinforce frontline cities quickly. And in practice, about thirty percent of the forces will receive patrol and escort missions outside the city.
By the time the convoy from Laihiala Pilot Academy arrived at Jantunen, it was already past noon.
The city wall surrounding Jantunen is colossal in scale. Because of the existence of Demon beasts, traveling long distances is difficult, so this is first time seeing another big city other than Laihiala for many of the students. Everyone is curious about this city and this is the most anticipated part for many of them.
"What an amazing wall, what are they defending against?"
"The enemy they have in mind are Demon beasts... or rather, the Demon beasts during the nation's founding. There are many more vicious Demon beasts during that era."
"Oh... That's why it is so massive."
The students were elated when they saw the gate leading into the city. But the carriage did not pass through the gates, but are gathered in the open space in front of it.
"Wait, aren't we going into Jantunen?"
"They already told us that the stop at Jantunen is only to resupply."
Although the group can disembark and rest outside the carriage, but they will need to move out once the goods have been loaded. The students who thought they could get a reprieve from the dull journey starts to complain, the twins stare at the gargantuan gate and nags.
"Man, this is boring. It won't do any harm letting us in for a while!"
"That's right, I want to go shopping."
"Wait, that's not why..."
"Don't you want to take a look?"
"I am interested, but going on a tour with such a large group of students can turn into a horrible mess."
As they spoke, Eru looks to the side. It was probably arranged in advanced, the merchants came out of the gate with the goods, which are then loaded onto the carriages.
The short break was over and it was time to go. The carriage left with the reluctant students on board and move towards their destination ― Cloquet's Forest.
After traveling for a day from Jantunen, They reached Cloquet's Forest. The road that leads to the east of the Kingdom was badly maintained. After rocking in the carriage for the whole day, they finally reach the entrance of a thick forest.
The caravan parked in an open space near the entrance of the forest, the base camp for annual field trips.
The students started setting up tents under the command of the instructors. They have been sleeping on the carriage on their journey here, ready to escape at a moment's notice if Demon beasts attack. But they will be training for several days here and can't stay on the carriages indefinitely. So they erected tents and used this base as a camp site.
The seniors have experienced this several times and set up their tents skillfully. In the Knighthood faculty, besides normal training, camping trips are also conducted once in a while. Since they aspire to be knights, setting up camp is a necessary skill when traveling in an army. Learning skills other than sword and magic is a unique feature for those majoring in Knighthood. But it is not easy for the first years. Although they learned and practiced before the trip, their inexperience still shows in their work. Even with the assistance of the instructors, there are a few teams that slowed the progress, so dinner was served very late.
The entrance of the forest was filled with tents just like a camping zone. There are torches all around, illuminating the dark corner of the forest. As part of their training program, the second years are assigned guard and patrol duties. With so many charges, the instructors can't take care of everyone, so the students are also posted as guards, which serve as practical assignments too.
Eru's team set up their tent faster than the other groups. Eru knows the steps well, and with the tall twins’ helping, they finished in no time. The two of them helped the other groups after finishing, while Eru walked to the outer edge of the camp site.
The basics are all done. I am not being lazy... ah, found it.
Beside the camping ground of the middle school students is the base of the high school Knight runners, and their Silhouette Knights. The footsteps of the Silhouette Knights and the hum of their internal components will disrupt the sleep of the campers. That's why they are stationed here in case of any emergencies.
The ten Silhouette Knights are arranged in rows, in standby mode with one knee on the ground. Their colossal figures are partially illuminated by the camp fire. With some parts hidden in the darkness, they look more imposing at night. Normal people might feel intimidated, but Eru simply smiled as he looked at the rows of iron giants seated in a row.
Ah, giant robots are great― this is the oasis of the heart, every home should have one.
There are no such terrifying families even in this world. But regretfully, no one is around to retort Eru.
"Hey, you there... silver hair? Is that Ernesti?"
After a short moment, someone called out to Eru who was immersed in a mysterious healing aura of robots. He turns back and saw the owner of Earlecumber ― Edgar.
"Evening Edgar-senpai. Sorry to disturb you."
"So it is you. Why are... I guess it is pointless to ask."
Eru is famous in pilot school. His antics and motivation are well known, too.
"Is senpai on standby duty?"
Edgar heard Eru's query as the flickering light from the camp fire shined over them. He smile bitterly and shook his head.
"No, we were deciding the order of the duty but... sigh, Di is making a scene as usual."
"Yes. Simply put, he was complaining about standby duty being a hassle. As Knight runners in their senior year of Laihiala Academy, protecting our juniors is an important mission... But as usual, his attitude is flippant."
He still has to carry out his task no matter how stubborn he is. But Dietrich still insists on nagging about it.
"I don't want to hear his complains, so I decided to change the mood and see these guys."
The two of them raise their head to look at 'them'. The campfire lit up the giant knight in white armour ― Silhouette Knight Earlecumber. It was not customised and retained its original shape. Its simple design has no special features and has a gentle feel about it. With the top pilot Edgar controlling it, the two partners are known as the strongest in pilot school.
"Senpai likes Silhouette Knights. too?"
"Eh? Rather than like... they are my weapon and comrades. My mood will calm down when I am with them. When I feel frustrated, like just now or when I feel tired, I will visit them."
I am probably not suited for this kind of talk ― Edgar scratched his head.
"I think having a reliable companion is wonderful."
"You really like Silhouette Knights. That's right, if you continue to work hard as a knight, you will gain a partner too... Ah, we talked for too long, first years should get back before it gets too late."
And so, they bid their farewell and returned.
"...Okay, De should have calmed down by now."
After watching the bright silver disappear into the darkness, Edgar mumbles to himself, and prepares to head back with the spirit of heading into battle.
The sky is totally dark. The first years finished their late dinner in the dim lights and returned to their tents. The first years have no assignments for the night. After the long journey and setting up camp, fatigue sets in and they wrap themselves in their blankets and sleep. When they have gone into slumber—
A loud howl from a beast came from deep within the forest. It was probably wolves. After the first howl, howls in response can be heard from all over the forest. The students on guard duty heighten their senses and look towards the forest. The howls can be heard every now and then, so they lost interest in it after a while. But there are some who can't ignore the howls. It reminds the first timer the situation they are in. This is not a safe town for a carriage they can run away on. This is right in front of the forest where Demon beasts lurk, they are sleeping in tents that were erected here.
Even though Cloquet's Forest is not really dangerous, it is not considered safe even with the students on watch. After arriving here without incident, they felt the atmosphere was on the way here, but grew tense because of the howling. Their sleepiness because of fatigue is gone and they are wide awake.
In Eru's team tent, Chid is shaking his head while lying down. Although he is not very affected, Chid still felt a bit uneasy and can't sleep.
I thought I was braver than this, seems like I am quite tense too.
The dim camp fire shines in, giving the dark tent an unsettling atmosphere. Chid suddenly wondered if Eru, sleeping besides him was uneasy like him and called out softly.
"Hey Eru, I want to ask... Eh."
Eru was fast asleep. He was not totally unmoved, but he was a warrior on the frontlines of hell in his previous life, too. He understood the importance of rest even if he doesn’t want too, and gained the ability to be able to sleep under any circumstances.
... Although I have known from the beginning, but he is too strong and carefree.
After hearing Chid, Ady who couldn’t sleep turns and stares at Eru's sleeping face.
"Eh, how cunning."
Chid doesn’t know what she means by cunning. Ady shifted over and pulls Eru into her arms, hugging him like a pillow. Eru woke after being hugged this way. He realised it is Ady, and he pats her head and falls asleep. Maybe Ady felt safe because of this and her breathing turns smooth after a moment. Looking at the two of them, Chid felt foolish for not being able to sleep.
Isn't it stupid for me to be tense by myself?
That's it, he decided to not worry anymore. After a while, he enters dreamland.
The next morning, the students start getting up some time after dawn.
A lot of student didn't get enough sleep. In the drowsy atmosphere, Eru's group was refreshed. There are always students who can't sleep when camping, experiencing this tension is one of the objectives of this field trip. The instructors didn't push the younger first years, so the content of job is rather relaxed. After the students finished the simple breakfast made from preserved food, they gathered in groups by their grades under the commands of the teachers.
After the teacher had given brief instructions, the second years break into teams and headed for the depth of the forest. The prime objective of this field trip is to engage in practical battles with the Demon beast lurking in the forest, and to hunt for a certain number of them. The first years will head to the outer region of the forest, and may have to fight if necessary.
The first years were tense as they enter the forest for the first time, while the other grades had to bear a different sort of tension, as they headed into the forest. After a moment, the sound of their armour grows softer as they move further in and the forest turns quiet once again.And so, this long day that all students in the Knighthood faculty will never forget begins.
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