Heading for Reiten, Ardis departed together with the members of 『Bright Stars of White Night』.
It’s just about before noon. The departure schedule was delayed because Ted, Norris and Orphellia needed time to recover from the damage caused by Melir’s breakfast. Even for them who are trained mercenaries, they couldn’t muster any energy to move after having a round of Melir’s Specials.
The highway that led to the west, the blue sky stretched from the horizon to their back. A refreshing breeze was blowing, along with the weather that wasn’t too hot accompanied them. Thanks to that, their paces were lighter.
「With this pace, we will probably arrive at Reiten in four days? 」
Just like Orphellia said, the distance to Reiten is about four to five days walking from Gran. If there aren’t any troubles that happen along the way, they would arrive in the afternoon of the fourth day.
It’s also thanks to the security of the highway that connected Gran to Reiten. Attacks from bandits and beasts are rare, there were only figures of caravans or mercenaries that they passed by along the way.
The smooth sailing continued for the first two days, on the third day, dusk, something changed. Just before the sun completely sets in the horizon, when the sky is dyed in a shade of dark red, Norris noticed something strange ahead.
「Hey. That, they’re getting attacked? 」
At Norris’s words, Ted narrowed his eyes as he peered.
「It does look like it……. A caravan? 」
「Seems like it. Attacking them are……beasts? What are those? 」
What reflected in Ardis’s eyes were three horse carriages that were surrounded by ten or so escorts. And the assaulting shadow. There was only one attacker. Its size clearly indicated that it wasn’t a human, but its silhouette wasn’t something they saw before on the grasslands.
「They seem to have their escorts, do they even need our help? 」
「No, that doesn’t seem to be the case. 」
Norris said after judging that they shouldn’t be in trouble based on the presence of escorts, but Ardis was against that. Certainly, there’re armed escorts there, but they didn’t seem very strong. One attack from the assaulting side made two of them collapse.
「Then, I guess, lend a hand? 」
At the same time Ted said that, he started running, followed by the rest. Even as they were nearing the scene, they could see casualties of the escorts are increasing.
「Umm……, that……, couldn’t it be a Ractor? 」
As they reduced their distance by half, when they could finally see the figure of the enemy clearly, Orphellia inferred.
「Haa? Ractor? There’s no way……wait, it does look like a Ractor. 」
Ted seemed to not believe it at first, but changed his opinion a beat later.
The opponent of the caravan was a gigantic purplish snake. Its torso was about a barrel in diameter, its length was longer than the three carriages of the caravan combined. It’s a Ractor of the Corsas Forest that they’re familiar with.
「Why, here, a Ractor? 」
Beside Orphellia who was stuttering from confusion, Norris added on.
「Well, there’s no use pondering about that. No matter what kind of opponent there is, it’s the same what we have to do. 」
Although it’s still at a range where Ted’s sword doesn’t reach, it’s close enough for Norris’s arrows to hit. Norris who stopped to a stance, took aim with his bow at the target, and released.
The arrow released by Norris flew through the air in a straight line, piercing the Ractor.
Since the range was still far. The damage given is quite shallow.
But, at the very least, Norris succeeded in distracting the Ractor from the caravan. Although Ardis couldn’t possibly make out the Ractor’s expression, its head that turned around slowly was evident of irritation.
「Ardis! Need your support! 」
Ted who took the front yelled, drawing his sword as he rushed towards the Ractor.
「The burning flames that is the proof of mine strength――Graist! 」(Fireball)
Ardis chanted a short aria and manifested a small fireball from his finger steps. The moment the finger pointed at the Ractor, the small fireball expanded suddenly to half a meter and flew through the air quickly.
At its enemies who appeared suddenly, the Ractor hissed threateningly.
And at that, Ardis’s fireball struck its face mercilessly. To not drag the caravan into it, at the same time the fireball struck, the flame covered the Ractor’s entire body and burned.
The Ractor’s entire body is burning.
It had already determined that the preys in front of it is not a priority, its emotionless pupils are staring at Ardis. Rather than the mercenaries that are surrounding it, it had determined that Ardis’s party is more dangerous.
That judgement was definitely not wrong. But, it was just too late.
The moment the Ractor decided to change its target, Ted who was swinging his bastard sword is already well within range.
As if splitting firewood with an axe, the chunk of Heavy Metal was swung down by Ted.
Together with the drying shriek of the demonic being, its heavy head fell onto the ground with a dull thud.
「Good work. 」
Ardis who caught up praised Ted.
「What, it’s nothing much. 」
Truthfully, with Ted’s power, one or two Ractors aren’t a problem at all. He probably wouldn’t have needed Ardis’s help and still have enough leeway to deal with the Ractor.
But of course, that’s because Ted is an experienced veteran mercenary, Ractors are fearsome enemies for most mercenaries.
「W-We are saved……? 」
The mercenaries barely held onto their lives because of Ted and the others’ intervention.
「Anyone’s hurt? 」
「I’m fine but……, they’re……」
Ted asked the mercenary in front of him, the mercenary replied while looking at the bodies on the ground. Some had their abdomen gouged out with teeth marks, some had their heads bit off. There’re quite a few that was obviously unsavable.
They probably never thought of encountering Ractor on the highway, not even in their dreams. From their stories, it seems that the escorts had expected encounters with beasts from the grasslands but, a battle with Ractor was totally out of their imaginations.
Ractors which are usually living in the forest wouldn’t come out of it normally. It might be that the Ractor mistakenly lost its ways and exited the forest, or chased after a prey into the grasslands, although they didn’t know the exact reason, it’s definitely an irregularity that they met a Ractor here.
「If it’s just Grass Wolves or Coyotes, then we would’ve been fine if there aren’t groups of them……」
Even for mercenaries who normally hunt near towns to earn would accept escort requests for this highway occasionally. After all, there isn’t any dangerous beasts or demonic beings that appears near the highway, so it’s quite the norm for them to finish the request without ever drawing their swords.
If they are aware of their surroundings to not be ambushed by bandits, it’s a good request for them to accept.
From what the mercenaries says, it seems that they’ve accepted the request this time without thinking too much as well.
「To think that something like this would happen……」
Although seeing companions die would be hard to endure normally, it doesn’t seem like they knew each other from the start. They’re just mercenaries who teamed up temporarily for the request.
「Of course it’s still a little regrettable since we’ve been together for a while……, but isn’t it a normal occurrence of being a mercenary? 」
「Well, that’s true. 」
Ted seemed to understand that as he agreed while making a bitter expression.
Ardis and the others who received grateful words from the mercenaries and the merchants of the caravan continued the journey together to Reiten.
「Since we are going the same way, helping them out a little won’t hurt right? 」
There wasn’t anyone against Ted. Although the three silvers a day of escort fees per person isn’t even enough for them, it’s not like they would have any inconvenience accepting them.
On top of that, the beasts that appear in the plains, they’re not life-threatening for them anyways. Just like what Ted said, it was truly 『The same way』.
And since they had saved the caravan, the caravan let them ride on the carriage. Since they can take it easy and sit in the carriage for the rest of the journey and would even get escort fees, it wasn’t a bad deal for them.
Ardis and the others who rested for the night along with the members of the caravan departed as soon as the sun rose.
「Is that so, you all are from Nagras huh. 」
As Ardis was taking it easy inside the shaky carriage, he was talking with the merchant who was holding the reins.
「And how about you guys? 」
Truthfully, Ardis is not very well versed in speaking idly like this. But, since they were allowed to ride on the carriage, Ardis thought that it would be petty to not speak, that’s why he replied occasionally.
Ted and the others are on another carriage. If Norris or Orphellia is around, then he could’ve just left the conversing part to them and take a nap. While thinking about being an escort in his mind, Ardis desperately held back his sleepiness.
「We are from a small town near the forest in the north, we came here to sell our products. 」
「You’re carrying wood……, and this smell, it’s herbs? 」
「Yeah, that’s right. You know well. 」
After all the entire carriage was stuffed with wood. But, mixed together with the unique nature smell of the wood, there was also fragrance of herbs of the forest. Since any normal person would’ve not caught the slight difference in smell, Ardis’s sense of smell could be said as extraordinary.
「Leaving the herbs aside, aren’t the wood heavy and bulky, and not really profitable? 」
「It’s normally like that but, wood and herbs can now be sold in Reiten for a high price. If you take it to the association called Jimberyl, they will buy it multiple folds than normal price. 」
Although what they are using it for isn’t clear, the merchant added on.
「Since it seems like there’s a shortage for wood around Reiten because of that, recently, there’re many merchants like us from afar who would transport wood there. 」
「Hmm, that’s quite a workout, fuaaa―」
Ardis didn’t hide his loud yawn at all, as he rubbed his sleepy eyes.
「Hahaha. The shaking of the carriage is like a cradle after all. 」
Seriously. While agreeing in his mind, Ardis started half dozing.
Together with the shaking of the carriage, whenever the wheels of the carriage bumped into a small rock on the road, Ardis would wake up a little.
While replying the merchant in his half-asleep state, Ardis let himself rest. Even when he was like that, the carriage had certainly moved towards the west.
Without ever getting ambushed by any bandits or assaulted by any beasts. They’ve all arrived at Reiten in the evening.