Four days after that. Ardis and Gresch party have been pulling the cart and hunting in the grasslands every day.
On top of hunting on the move to find more prey, having the need to pull the cart slowed their speed. And because of that, their rates have lowered somewhat, and naturally, their daily grand total have decreased a little.
Of course, that is if the amount is compared to the first day, even if it’s like this, seven or eight gold coins is what they have been getting daily.
However, such smooth sailing would not continue forever. Delivering a full cart of furs and other materials every day, it’s a given that they have caught others’ eyes.
And the people known as mercenaries, not all of them are as upstanding as Gresch’s party. Of course, there would be people that will eye the successful people, and take a chance to steal their spoils.
「Ardis. Those people are here again. 」
Ralph turned around irritatedly.
「Don’t mind them. If they don’t do anything, just ignore them. 」
While sighing, Ardis said so.
「But, no matter how I see it, they are definitely up to no good. 」
What Ralph said couldn’t be any wrong. Since the western grasslands have been hunted dry by Ardis for the past few days, they have been heading for the northern grasslands from yesterday.
Since the highway on the northern side is connected to a neighbor country, there isn’t a lack of mercenaries and merchants passing through it. But those that leaves the highway and come to the middle of the plains, all of them were mercenaries that came to hunt.
In spite of that, the group of mercenaries behind Ardis’s party didn’t seem to be looking to hunt anything or investigating anything. It isn’t as if they were followed Ardis and the others around for four six hours straight, but in this wide plain, to meet each other numerous times is obviously suspicious. It’s natural to think that they are tailing Ardis’s party.
Since it’s the plains with an open view, they couldn’t tail while hiding themselves perfectly. Because of that, they try to monitor while pretending to coincidentally bump into Ardis’s party, but the problem is what their purpose is.
From what can be seen, their head count is more than twenty. With simple math, the number of people they have is easily four times over Ardis’s party. No way that they are hoping to be employed by Ardis as well with that number.
It might be that after discovering that Ardis have been hunting a huge amount of prey everyday consecutively, they are observing him to know his secret.
Even if they suspect that there’s a secret, it’s all because of Ardis’s abnormal one handedly hunting, but looking from the side, they probably can’t discern that.
They probably only see that a party made up of brats in their tens, successfully hunting Despairs and Beast Kings in a big number. Can’t be blamed that they suspected that Ardis’s party have some kind of secret.
Without letting their guard down, Ardis and the others continued hunting like usual.
As usual, they hunted prioritizing Beast Kings, and they dismantled the fur and other useful materials on the spot. If there isn’t any prey around, then they would move to the next spot――a repetition.
And after finally filling up their cart with materials they gathered, they started heading back towards Thoria, but the mercenary group appeared and stood in their way. They split into three groups, with the major one stood in front of their way, blocking their advancement.
They went into a half encompassment formation, with their two groups coming in from the sides.
「What do we do, Ardis? 」
Gresch and the others seemed to be panicking as sweat trickled down their foreheads. The opponent has over four times the people compared to Ardis’s side.
On top of that, just by glancing, there seemed to have a few mercenaries amongst them that are intermediate grade. If it were just Gresch and the others here, they have no chance of standing against the group.
Ardis while being silent, he observed the opponent’s expression. The silence that continued for a little while, came to a stop when the tough-looking guy leading the front group opened his mouth.
「Bald kids. Ain’t you having fun by hoarding the preys yourselves these days. I can’t say that I’m quite impressed by that. 」
It’s not a tone that can be said friendly.
「Because of you kids hunting them pointlessly, it’s hurting even our bowl. Well, we won’t be a demon, just spit out how you can hunt the Beast Kings and Despairs easily and the tools to do that. Then we can be good friends. 」
Although they tried to make it sound like a negotiation, it’s obviously a threaten.
「Well, that is quite a winding way to say. 」
Ardis said it as if he’s had enough.
「So? What if I said no? 」
In an instant, the atmosphere around the mercenaries changed.
「That’s, you……. Might become a state that you want to speak but can’t. 」
The mercenaries put their hands on their weapons, and the ones looked like magicians started raising their wands one after another as if preparing to chant.
Against the question that seemed to be the last, Ardis laughed indifferently and answered.
「Of course――. Rejected. 」
The tough-looking mercenary’s brow raised.
Probably from what he has expected, he’d never thought that such a stubborn reply will come from a group of new mercenaries. The man who looked like he was stunned for a moment, regained his cool in a few moments and raised his voice.
「Do it! Just get any one of them alive! 」
With that voice as the trigger, the mercenaries came at once. From both sides, magic like fireball and rock came hurling. From the front, arrows released by the archers pierced through the winds.
In an instant, Ardis unsheathed the short sword on his waist calmly, and a few words came from him.
A barrier deployed in front of them, countering the magic released by the opponents.
The attack magic landed on where Ardis and the others stood. Even if the magic spells that were released has a weak power by themselves, they have enough power to finish off newbie mercenaries without trouble. And numerous of those.
In the aftermath of the magic landing, clouds of sand raised into the air, and volleys of arrow came after that. If Ardis and the others were just new mercenaries, they would probably already in a state of ruin now. Even if they survived somehow, they wouldn’t be in a state to fight.
Of course, that is if Ardis is a newbie mercenary. The magic barrier that was deployed without the accompany of a chant deflected all the enemies’ magic.
The second magic that was activated without chanting, this time, it was aimed to the mercenaries.
The intense wind that was released to the sides, encompassed the mercenaries and mercilessly cut and ruptured their limbs, even their neck wasn’t excluded.
And what was visible when the clouds of sand settled down, was the figure of Ardis standing unharmed, and the figures of mercenaries collapsed in a pool of blood on the sides.
「W-What is……!? 」
The only group that is in front that wasn’t attacked by Ardis, raised a voice of disbelief. Rather than the arrows they released piercing their targets, they were all cut in two on the ground within hand reach.
Above the arrows that have been cut into two, a single short sword floated immobile. With the scenery that they never seen before, the mercenaries became noisy.
「It can’t be……, sword magic? 」
「Then, that’s the rumored? 」
「Isn’t it quite the heated story? 」
「Was it such a kid. 」
「I heard they were just newbies, this doesn’t match. 」
One after another, they spoke their thoughts out seemingly hesitating to attack. The tough-looking guy seemed to have snapped and yelled back at his comrades.
「What sword magic! He’s just a brat! We still have more people, scared by a single magician is a joke! Do it! 」
As if those words have dispelled their hesitation, along with his words, the remaining mercenaries came at once. Though more than ten people rushed towards Ardis’s direction, there wasn’t anyone that looked like a magician amongst them. That’s probably because all the magicians they’ve got was positioned on the sides before.
「Just attack before he gets a chance to aim! 」
Ardis smiled bitterly as he unsheathed another short sword from his waist, before throwing it to the archers at the back. After slicing past the throat of an archer at the back, it turned as if defying inertia, and chased after the next archer across the air.
In that period, what the archers managed to muster were merely three arrows, which were all helplessly cut to the ground by the short sword which had been floating in the air from the beginning.
While this sight entered Ardis’s sight, he turned his hands towards those mercenaries that are in about five-meter distance.
Instantly, a dazzling light was released from his hands.
The ray of light travelled at a speed faster than the arrows, as if getting sucked into the mercenaries’ forehead, it robbed the mercenaries of their lives in an instant. The sound of bodies collapsing onto the ground reverberated one after another.
The enemies numbering more than twenty, and all of them were seasoned mercenaries. And to crush them head-on, the overpowering strength made Gresch and the other swallowed their breath, and finally seemed to have calmed down a little.
「Now, this is……. Too powerful. 」
「It’s a strength that can make me laugh only. 」
Ralph and Konia met each other’s face and said.
「Hey, Ardis. 」
「What is it? 」
「With your strength, could it be that you could have suppressed them without killing? 」
Versus more than twenty mercenaries, by only Ardis himself. It’s a difference in combative ability that have no need to be compared but, Gresch have probably understood that with Ardis’s absurd ability, Ardis would’ve won anyways.
But at the same time, with that much of a difference in ability, Ardis could have handled it in a way that wouldn’t have to kill them. Gresch was indirectly blaming Ardis for this.
「I could’ve done it if I wanted to. 」
That should’ve been a piece of cake for Ardis.
「Then why!? If you could’ve done it, then can’t you just incapacitate them and hand them over to the guard!? 」
「Because there’s no need for that. I don’t have the mercy to spare for a robber. 」
「They aren’t robbers! They’re the same as us, mercenaries! 」
「Then, what is a robber? What is a robber in Gresch’s mind? 」
「……Defying the law and plundering the others of their fortune and lives, I guess. 」
「Then what is that they have done? In the middle of the plains that the law doesn’t reach, they tried to take our fortune and lives with violence. How are they different than the robbers that Gresch described? 」
「I will say it, in the case of those people, they are even worse than a plain robber. Regardless if they had a bounty or a nameless robber, they should be known to a certain extent as a mercenary. There are probably few on their sides amongst the townsfolks and guards. Even if I were to hand them over to the guards, it doesn’t mean that the guards and the lord will accept your claims. If the worst comes to the worst, you will be charged guilty. There aren’t any other witnesses other than us after all. 」
「No way, such things……」
「Can you say there will be none? What if they were to be released with no charges? Even if they were actually charged guilty for it, try to see after they got fined or forced labor for a short while. They will definitely come back to us for revenge. And with a more sophisticated plan. 」
For Ardis, Gresch’s thinking is just too naive. Evil is judged, and virtue is praised. It seemed to Ardis that Gresch has a thinking that reality is built like those in the picture books. Believing in it is one’s choice. But the reality isn’t something so pretty. It was something that Ardis realized finally when he lost something precious to him.
He didn’t say that out, but what Ardis did say had certainly gave a vibe of that. Gresch couldn’t bring himself to rebuke him anymore.
Ardis would’ve collected the equipment on the mercenaries normally. But considering Gresch and the others’ feelings, he decided to give up on that.
Burning and burying the corpses underground with magic, they returned to town while pulling the cart. Usually, it would’ve been a trip full of happy voices. But that day, from start to end, there were no lines exchanged.