「No, that’s strange. Ardis. 」
Norris said as if he has had enough.
――A tavern in the Thoria’s entertainment district.
Occupying a table, Ardis and the members of 『Bright Stars of White Night』 were sitting together.
Finishing their long expedition if half a month, Ted and the others had just returned after finishing their request yesterday. Invited for a drink, Ardis who came to the bar on his own explained what happened recently, and was met with a question from Norris.
Ardis asked reversely.
Once again, Ardis explained from the start what had happened after splitting up with Ted and the others. Receiving the request that they introduced, he was met with a battle when he went to invite Nere. Bringing Nere to the lord’s mansion and completing the request. And then the fact that he was followed by Nere everywhere after that.
The matter that they formed a temporary party because there wasn’t any choice. Because that Nere didn’t have any prejudice about the twins, he had been proactively working with her. And Nere who wouldn’t stay in an inn no matter what, is now currently living in Ardis’s house.
「It’s definitely weird. 」
Norris interrupted without hesitation.
「Yes, it’s weird. 」
「The fact that I didn’t judge Nere as my enemy because she doesn’t have prejudice against the twins? 」
「No no, the problem isn’t there right? 」
Ted spoke from the side this time.
「That Nere girl doesn’t have prejudice against the twins, certainly that could be a good thing since she can interact with the twins without problems. But that’s different than letting that girl into your house and live together. 」
「That’s right. It was strange for me too. It’s certainly good that she doesn’t hold any bad intentions towards the twins. It’s certainly good she is a reliable mercenary as well. But having her freeload the house is a completely different matter, right? 」
Getting pointed out by three different persons, Ardis thought again. Nere is trustworthy as a mercenary. That is certainly what Ardis had judged by himself after working together for a little while.
Nere doesn’t discriminate the twins. That’s why there’s no need to hide their existence. But it’s certainly as Ted and the others said, 『Even so, inviting her into your house』, there isn’t any reason anywhere.
「Come to think of it……, that’s certainly the case……」
It was just as they said now that Ardis thought about it.
Nere isn’t his family or even someone he should take care of. Because they are splitting the earnings from hunting equally, there is no way that she’s lacking funds to stay in an inn. After rethinking about it, isn’t if fine if she stayed in an inn and only meet up with Ardis during the time for work.
Ardis was too focused on the safety of himself and the twins. He was probably overwhelmed by the surprise of Nere denying the existence of the goddess that his rational thoughts were blown away. He didn’t even question her who continued living together with Ardis after having let her in temporarily from the rain.
Lately, the twins seemed to have become familiar with Nere as well, although still not conversing, the distance had at least shortened to the extent that they can eat in the same table.
「Well, the twins seems to be accustomed to her too, isn’t it fine? 」
「It’s fine!? 」
Ted retorted expectedly.
But for Ardis, there’s no problem as long she doesn’t have any bad intentions. There’re free rooms in his house in the first place, and it’s not like he’s planning to rent them.
He didn’t know whether she’s serious or not but, Nere seems to be following Ardis as a servant. Rather than an enemy, she’s a helpful mercenary, and doesn’t have any animosity towards the twins as well. If so, then Ardis didn’t really have a reason to chase her away.
「Unn―……. If Ardis is fine with that, then it’s nothing we should say about. 」
Compared to Ted who still didn’t seem convinced at this point, Norris didn’t seem to care anymore. Since he’s a type that less caring about other people in the first place.
「Leaving that aside, Ardis. You heard about the recent news? 」
「The recent news, about the Grinder? 」
「Yes, that. 」
There’s a topic quite hot in Thoria’s taverns recently. It was four days ago, mercenaries on the grasslands spotted a gigantic shadow flying across the sky.
The mercenaries thought it was a bird’s shadow at first. But since Thoria is surrounded by grasslands on four sides, the sighting of birds itself is quite rare.
Neither mercenaries nor peddlers had experienced many occasions when the shadow of a bird is flying above their heads while travelling. The 『Killer Bird』and 『Observer』are big birds that live near Thoria. One can see their appearance quite frequently.
The two of them are ferocious carnivores. Not just gathering around corpses of mercenaries or peddlers, they would even form groups and attack humans, they’re very dangerous and troublesome beasts.
Although dangerous, it’s only true for the peddlers and average people who doesn’t have ways to fight back. They aren’t a strong foe for mercenaries, so they aren’t a problem for mercenaries.
It’s to an extent that repelling them doesn’t sweat any experienced mercenary. Unless they are striking at your weakness, or forming groups to attack, they aren’t feared opponents for mercenaries.
That day, the mercenaries who saw the bird shadow thought so at first as well. But that’s until they witnessed the bird dived down and attacked a huge 『Fighter Bull』.
Fighter Bulls are giant herbivore about three meters in length on the grasslands. Since their temper is very short, if one drew close accidentally, they would receive a painful strike from the two horns on the bull’s head.
Looking at the shadow which swooped down, the mercenaries had realized that they were wrong. It’s not a Killer Bird nor an Observer, since their size was at most one meter apart when it spread its wings. But that shadow which attacked its prey, its size wasn’t in any way inferior than the three-meter big Fighter Bull.
The shadow that finished off the Fighter Bull in just a few moments, spread its wings as if covering the bull’s body, then started shaking on the spot. It was probably tearing apart the bull.
The mercenaries who saw that immediately left the spot at full speed, and reported to the soldiers after returning to Thoria. And there had been similar reports ever since. After analyzing the witness’s reports, it’s suspected the owner of the shadow is actually a Grinder.
「I knew about that news but……. Is there credibility? I’ve never heard a Grinder that would come down from the valleys. 」
Ardis said so full of suspicion.
「It might be unbelievable story but, there’d been many witnesses and apparently the cause behind it is also found. 」
「The cause? 」
「Recently, mercenaries are getting attacked less by Despairs and Beast Kings. It’s a happy scenario for the new mercenaries who are hunting but, if the numbers of Despairs and Beast Kings are actually declining……」
「If they decreased, what about it? 」
「Because there’re less predators around, then the preys will flourish more. Of course, it’s not like they can increase in a huge number, but the number of them getting hunted is definitely lesser. Wasn’t there a case where the herbivores overflowed on the grasslands before? There’re people who think the reason behind a Grinder would come out so far from the Canobis Valley, is that the grasslands had become an attractive hunting ground. 」
If what Norris had said was the truth, then a part of responsibility falls on Ardis too. Even Ardis by himself can hunt many Despairs and Beast Kings. Adding on the fact of Nere accompanying him, the amount they’ve hunted together was even more.
The Despairs that they’ve hunted in the past half month were more than fifty, as for the Beast Kings, Ardis couldn’t remember. Their hunting might’ve been in the domain of overhunting, and there is certainly the possibility of affecting the grasslands ecosystem.
Despite so, it isn’t like Ardis is feeling too responsible. If a Grinder would show up in front of him, then he’ll take care of it but, it’s not like he will take his time to find and exterminate them especially. If he had the free time to do so, he might as well use it to take a nap in his house. That’s why, his tone became boorish naturally.
「So, what about that? Is it anything we should care about? 」
「Unfortunately, it isn’t that simple you see. 」
Norris reply made Ardis furrow his brows. From his experience with Norris so far, every time he said something like this, what follows isn’t pretty.
「For peddlers and caravans, their life and death depends on the safety of the highway. And the rulers who govern the territory is responsible for the safety of their highway. 」
As Norris said, guaranteeing the safety of the highway is the lord’s job. Since it’ll become a risk for merchants to carry their products across a dangerous region. Naturally, the frequency of merchants and caravans coming would decrease, causing various prices to surge and other negative effects to Thoria.
Different than Despairs and Beast Kings, Grinders can fly in the sky. To make matters worse, Grinders are strong enough to treat the despair of grasslands as ants. If they left the Grinder to do whatever it likes, then there will sure to be victims in the short future, and there will certainly impacts to logistics.
「As such, the territorial army will form a subjugation team. 」
Since it’ll be too late when victims appear, the territorial army had taken early measures unexpectedly, Ardis was impressed.
Although he personally didn’t have a good relationship with them, it’s not like they are heavy-assed incompetent people. Or maybe the lord is capable. Either way, it’s not like Ardis can judge the lord’s capability since he’d never met him before.
「The main unit of the subjugation team will be from the territory but, they seemed to have called out to some famous mercenaries in Thoria for the sake of covering their corners. That’s why, boss! 」
As Norris raised his voice, the tavern owner who was at the counter moved towards their table lazily.
「I think you’ve heard it from Norris already but, it’s a nomination request that came for 『Bright Stars of White Night』. The requestor is the lord. It’s to participate in the subjugation. Participation reward is three gold a day. For those who spots the Grinder, ten gold. And fifty gold added on if the subjugation is succeeded. 」
The three gold coins for the participation fee are for the entire party. It’s an enormous sum for normal mercenaries but, for Ardis who is now earning an average of ten gold a day, it felt a little less.
That’s probably same with Ted and the others. With their strength, depending on the details of the request, they would get at least five gold a day.
「Are you guys going to accept it? 」
Ardis asked Ted about the compensation.
「The subjugation compensation is alluring but, it’s not like we can find it that easily. Honestly, don’t really feel like accepting it……」
From Ted’s tone, it seems like he doesn’t really have the mood to participate.
「Considering your future, it isn’t recommended to reject a nominated request especially from the lord. 」
After the tavern’s master gave his warning, Ted answered after a while.
「Sigh……. And the slim chance of winning if we came across the Grinder on the rare chance. Well, sorry but, I’ll reconsider if Ardis is taking part, since we probably won’t die even if the Grinder appeared. 」
「And so, it’ll be depending on Ardis if we are going to accept the request or not. 」
Norris continued the talk from Ted towards Ardis.
Ardis rested his arm on the table and supported his head, making a thinking gesture for a while, then he asked the tavern master.
「Will I have to go under the territorial army’s command? 」
「No, the expedition will basically be split into small groups. There probably wouldn’t be any soldiers in a mercenary party. 」
From the start, the army didn’t seem like they had the intentions to mingle with people like mercenaries. They probably thought that it’ll be fine as long as the Grinder is found and is subjugated. After splitting up the search area, it seems like it’s up to your own working.
「Then I won’t mind but……, what about Nere. 」
The territorial army, especially the prideful General, Ardis would not complain if he didn’t have to meet with that guy. As for 『Bright Stars of White Night』, since it’s not a good idea to be giving a bad impression to the lord, they should cooperate proactively so that they will be considered positively in the future. All that considered, Ardis still had one matter left.
「Is it fine if Nere join? 」
Nere is the partner that he had been working together with for the past while. If Ardis were to participate in the subjugation, then Nere would be on her own. Although, since it’s Nere. Even if he told her to do not come, she would just follow him as she likes.
「That depends on how useful she is. 」
The useless ones are unneeded. Ted is correct. Since the participation compensation is for the entire party, more members means lesser portions. No matter how Ted and the others aren’t troubled with money, it isn’t like they are good people who would work for free.
「I can vouch for her abilities. She has enough strength to hunt a Whips on her own after all. 」
「Then at the very least, she won’t be a baggage huh. Fine, that girl will also accept the request as one member of 『Bright Stars of White Night』. 」
Satisfied with Ardis’s answer, Ted decided to accept the request.
「Alright. Five people as 『Bright Stars of White Night』 will be participating, something like this should be fine right? 」
The tavern master seemed to be relieved as he spoke, before returning to the counter.