Chapter 133 – Standing Out (Part 2)
“It was at that point that everybody became divided on what to do and where to go. Several people stood up wanting to tell others what to do but it was Marcos that stepped out of the crowd and made people listen.
He already had the trust of a few people he’d fought next too, but there was something about him that made others believe he knew what he was doing. He took the position of leader. There were quite a few people including myself that were unconvinced… But he proved himself almost immediately after.”
“We began heading north after he decided. It was only because his knowledge regarding the plants in the area was so extensive that he managed to keep everyone together at that point. There were plenty of people that weren’t convinced by him yet, but he really did know his stuff.”
Leo’s eyes lit up for a moment as he wondered ‘When did Marcos know about plants?’
“He began leading and we followed. We actually became embroiled in battle after battle, but while some of us were dismayed. Others started to recognize what was happening. No matter the territory, although we had to battle monsters – all of them were monsters we could kill. Along the way Marcos even saved various people from poisonous creatures that they didn’t even know were creatures or poisonous due to their camouflage”
Karla took a big breath as she held Marcos’s hand before continuing, an action that made Leo want to tease Marcos endlessly.
“Then we came across this terrible Bull creature. I honestly… Believe it was possibly the creature the forest was named after. One of the guys in the group for some stupid reason decided to attack it. He was the first one killed… After that bull monster caught sight of us though, it was as if we were all frozen. He came after he first and with his charge and speed I knew I was dead. I would have been if it weren’t for Marcos. He grabbed me and pushed me out of the way while being grazed by that monster! He saved me!”
Leo and Haeru were both listening with interest the entire time but it was Daichi whose eyes became large and round after hearing her previous comment. He had to stop himself from saying something as he held his tongue and couldn’t stop himself from comparing her expression to the one he’d had all those years ago.
Daichi was suddenly feeling turned around. He’d expected so many things to be different and just as many things to have stayed the same but it seemed he’d been wrong multiple times about what those things would be. He couldn’t help but making comparisons and wondering how things and people from his past might still be alive. Being trapped within a mist of an energy he’d never heard of before was proof to him that the things he once believed impossible were perhaps just due to his lack of insight and information.
Karla had paused for a long time with a longing look towards Marcos as he squeezed her hand but Leo even noticing all this couldn’t help yelling “Well what happened next!?”
Karla frowned at him for ruining her moment with Marcos but Marcos just gave him a haphazard grin having completely expecting it.
“He pushed us to the ground and just as we were expecting an attack our instructor moved in to defend us… We thought we were saved. We went from thinking we were dead to saved in a moment only to realize how wrong we were. Within moments we realized that no matter what he did, he just couldn’t harm that bull. It was impregnable… This was before it used it’s horrifying skill…”
Surprisingly to Leo and Haeru it was Daichi who took the opportunity to ask “What skill? What did it do?”
At this point Karla had definitely paused for dramatic effect, but she was doing it to get back at Leo for before even though it was juvenile. Leo and Haeru gave each other a glance. Having known Daichi for a few days they wouldn’t have said they knew him well, but they’d gotten to know that Daichi rarely spoke when he didn’t have too even if he seemed to enjoy their company.
Karla quickly continued no longer paying any heed to her previous annoyance at Leo “It was fire. It was a crazy fire that erupted from that bull. It spread wide and it prevented any of the things that our professor did from harming it! It was at that point where our professor realized how bad the situation was, he told us to run as he would buy us time. We were all in a stupor. We’d never come across such a horrifying creature and we couldn’t look away. It was Marcos that came to his senses, literally… carried me up…” Karla stopped as a blush spread across her face.
Daichi’s eyes widened briefly before returning to normal. He’d suspected as much but now he was certain. Those creatures he faced were definitely the same bulls he’d once faced. ‘They are heavenly. They are even the pets of a ridiculously strong being. That they’re still alive isn’t that surprising. Maybe a little surprising is that they weren’t both together this time?’
Suddenly Daichi wondered whether the two mare he’d met before were still alive. He wasn’t sure it mattered much to him, but they’d been helpful. He’d come to realize something about himself as he’d been in the mist. Although he’d always had a hard time connecting with others emotionally, he couldn’t help but feel some ties towards those who’d helped him.
He’d wondered many times whether his fate would have been different had he never gone back to rescue the others. There wasn’t a single time he’d felt regret over his decision, but with nothing but time on his hands he couldn’t help himself from wondering ‘what if’ one or two times. In the end he even questioned whether the only reason he’d gone back was solely from himself and he’d realized perhaps part of it was because they’d been helpful. However, complicated his relationship with his father had been, his father had still taken the time and effort to teach him values. One of those values was repaying the kindness of others, ‘A man must never owe others. A debt must always be repaid.’
While thinking as much he wondered ‘Perhaps that’s why I’m thinking of her now. Them. I mean them.’ Although his left eye twitched without him knowing it.
“And… He began running. He started yelling at everyone on the way but he was making sure everyone followed. We ran like that with Marcos leading the way for hours…” there was a look of near worship on her face as she looked at Marcos. In her eyes Marcos was the type of hero a maiden would long to meet, much less get the opportunity to be saved by like in some sort of fairytale.
Over the next few days, Marcos lead the way. No matter where we went Marcos would scout the way. The beasts we found were all going crazy, and it felt like they were everywhere. No matter what direction we fled towards, we would always run into more!
Eventually Marcos decided that there was no way for us to survive if we didn’t fight. He spoke with us, shared with us his determination. He lit the fire of desire within our hearts. All of us were brave enough to enter the forest for this exam. We all wanted to join the academy for one reason or another, and it was enough that we were willing to risk our lives. Marcos reminded us of all of that, and that without risk there would never be reward!”
Once Karla finished everyone around her rallied behind her words.
“Marcos is our leader! A man amongst men!”
“If there’s anyone I respect its Marcos! His parents are lucky to have raised a son like him unlike mine hehe”
“We put our hopes on his shoulders and he didn’t let us down!”
Leo, Haeru and Daichi stared at these people with shock and amusement. Mostly shock though… Leo was especially surprised, he knew how charismatic Marcos was but never imagined he could turn his fellow peers into name-cheering followers. These were after all, the best of the best of their generation. They could be considered the 1% to have passed the preliminary exam, and survived in Bull-Wind Forest.
Damien wasn’t close but he wasn’t too far and his face was covered in a large frown as he heard these words with a glance in their direction. He looked at the large group of people surrounding their group and Marcos in the middle and his face darkened.
Marcos smiled at the people around him but said nothing.
Karla tried to think of how to word the next few things but couldn’t find a way of doing so without upsetting the others. She gave a look towards a few of the people around her but decided to continue anyways. “We decided to fight. Marcos led us, but he had a plan. We’d fight only the weakest creatures. That way we could force a way out towards another area. Although we fought the weakest creatures… There were groups everywhere. No matter who or what we fought their numbers were always more than ours. Their numbers were greater, and although they were the weakest creatures of the ones there. They weren’t weak at all!”
The same look of dismay colored various people in the group along with Karla who’d spoken in such a way to give them some face. She didn’t want her words to tarnish the reputation of their friends.
“We fought with our lives on the line and some of our brothers fell. We fought together, we fought our bravest and hardest and we did all we could.” Marcos stated with a resolute voice.
“Our brothers died brave men!” several of the young men in the group yelled together but it was clear that some of the people in the group were greatly saddened by the loss.
They may have fought bravely and had the courage that some people never have their entire lives, but these were still practically children. A lot of these “young” men and women had only experienced death for the first time in these past few days. Some had even been scarred in a way that might never heal their entire lives.
Although they’d had the resolution and courage to survive, some things were harder to do. Dealing with loss was sometimes one of those things.