「Sister Solte. The mercenary has arrived. 」
The room seemed like it was a dining hall for the church people.
With a long table that could fit twenty people at once, the chairs with a modest design lined up both sides neatly. Inside the room decorated with a unique atmosphere of the church, there was a single girl who welcomed Ardis and the priest.
「Thank you very much. Sorry for the bother. 」
「No, it’s not something to be thanked for. 」
The priest with the plump ears replied to the girl’s thanks and left the room.
「Please have a seat. Sorry to have you come to such a place. 」
The girl offered Ardis a seat.
She is short. Enough for people to have an impression that she would get blown away if the wind blew, her pupils with a shade of red seemed be in unease.
「It’s been a while. Let me thank you again for saving me on that occasion. 」
As Ardis lowered himself onto the chair, the girl opposite of the table lowered her head. The cherry blossom hair that was tied up behind her head shook lightly.
「I have already received more than enough appreciation that time. Rather than that, let’s cut to the chase. 」
The girl――Solte was someone Ardis met before in the Corsas Forest. There were five students including her who had entered Corsas Forest recklessly, and were saved by Ardis and Ted and the others in the cave they hid in.
Having accepted the request and compensated for it is more than enough for a mercenary. Of course, the one getting saved might be different. At the very least, the girl seemed to be grateful to Ardis for saving her.
That is why Ardis had decided to hear her situation out at the very least despite his reluctance. Unlike the stuck-up brat of some noble that wouldn’t ever utter the words of appreciation, the impression that the girl had was of course much better.
After a troubling expression appeared on her face because of Ardis’s words, the girl with the monastic clothing sat back down.
「I heard it from Jeanne that it’s an escort request. Don’t tell me that you’re planning to enter another forest or something? 」
「N-No. That’s not the case. 」
At Ardis’s words, Solte panickily denied. Well, Ardis expected that it couldn’t be the case already though.
「It’s a task from the church this time. 」
「A task? 」
「Yes. Ardis-san knows about the mines in the north of the capital, right? 」
Recently, the Nagras Kingdom had been allocating manpower in developing the lands in the valley in the north.
Since it is a land rich with veins of Heavy Metal, it is a very profitable place for the kingdom.
「Yeah, I’ve heard about it. 」
There’s nothing to hide about, after all, it’s Ardis himself who had subjugated the demonic being, 『Bell Chaser』 that had been nested there before. The fact that mines can be built there is all thanks to Ardis, or rather, the consequences of his actions.
「There’re a few settlement there at the Heavy Metal mines now but there aren’t any churches there, there isn’t even a priest assigned there yet. 」
「Well, that’s natural. 」
「That’s why, the kingdom would send out priests and sisters from the church to the settlements regularly. And the ones to be dispatched are according to a rotation――」
So, it’s probably Solte’s turn this time around.
「But aren’t you still an apprentice? And a student? 」
「It’s exactly because of that. 」
Solte had a bitter smile.
After all, Solte who was expected to be a Saintess candidate in the future are treated specially and sent to a different academy than the other sisters. It’s still special treatment no matter how you see it.
And so, she must fulfil her tasks much earlier than the others. The others seem to think so, and she herself seems to regard it as natural as well.
「Hn――. Being a Saintess candidate sucks too huh. 」
Ardis said so without interest, and the girl who was the candidate smiled wryly.
「And so I’m supposed to escort you on the way? 」
「That……, strictly speaking……, it’s not an escort……. 」
Solte’s voice softened from the middle.
Even her last few words are barely audible
「Eh? What was that? I can’t hear you if you speak so soft. 」
「That, not an escort but……, a baggage carrier……」
Ardis’s eyes turned round at the unexpected role he was given.
「Only if it’s a baggage carrier, then you can hire another one, that’s what the priest said……」
「What? Are you going without an escort? There must be a limit to recklessness. Is the priest that guy just now? 」
「No, it’s another person……」
Solte panickily denied.
「Umm, that……. There’re escorts already. The church had already hired them. But……that……. I knew it’s going to be the case ever since I’m in the church but……, the escorts are somehow……scary. 」
It seems like Solte had already met the escorts. And it seems that they had somehow made her feel uneasy.
「Then wouldn’t request a change of personnel work? 」
Ardis gave his suggestion but Solte shook her head.
「It’ll cause a lot of trouble changing the escorts now. But, since they said that it’ll be fine if I chose another person to hire as a baggage carrier……」
「Then why not ask those student bunch you know? They’re people you’re familiar with, right? Certainly, there was another girl in that bunch. 」
「After that incident last time, we were all forbidden from getting out of the town till graduation. 」
「Aah……, that’s how it is huh. Well, that was a big incident after all……」
After all, the compensation to save the five students including Solte was at five hundred gold. Even if it was for some idiotic child of a noble or a Saintess candidate, it’s not an amount to be scoffed at.
It’s natural that they would get some penalty of some sort after that.
「This time, it’s specially permitted by the church but, since other students other than my classmates aren’t keen on fighting……. But even if she agreed, bringing her together would be a little……」
「And so you requested me huh. 」
「Yes. Rumors about Ardis-san had even reached the academy. 」
「I understand now. But, aren’t you just being overly conscious about it? Since they’re escorts hired by the church, there’s no way they’re some thugs, right? 」
It’s the escort request formally issued by the church, and it was to escort the future Saintess candidate. Even the church probably wouldn’t have cheap out the compensation and hired some nameless bunch.
Ardis’s words which suggested that he could not care less had left Solte no choice but with an expression on the verge of crying.
「I beg you. I will carry all the baggage myself. Please just come with me. If Ardis-san refuses, I don’t have anyone else to ask. There’s no time to issue another request, and there’s the last meetup before departing later today. But I’m too scared to go alone……」
It was a girl begging with wet eyes, even Ardis couldn’t bear to refuse her outright. After vaguely agreeing to accompany her to the meetup, Ardis still reminded her that, 「It doesn’t mean I have agreed to your request. 」
With a child who is desperately asking for his help while seemingly anxious and scared, even Ardis wasn’t that cruel to refuse her coldly.
An hour after that, the mercenary that are Solte’s escorts arrived.
Ardis who had accompanied Solte in the dining hall for the meetup appraised them, and thought that something was not right.
A total of five mercenaries in the party. With a swordsman that’s smiling with a dimple in the middle, two axe wielders, and the other two who seems to be an archer and magician.
At Ardis’s appraisal at their equipment, the fact that they’re well equipped and their actions didn’t seem like they’re amateurs. They surely have some strength backing them up.
But the problem wasn’t that. What made Ardis’s wrinkles to appear on his forehead is that the party only consisted of young men.
Solte is a young girl, and on top of that, she has the beauty and looks that is even the talk in the capital. And for escorts for such a person to not even have a single female amongst them is weird.
If the escorted targets also consist of men, then it wouldn’t matter. But since only Solte is going, it’s not normal that the escort party has no females in it.
Where Solte is heading is the mines developing in the north, and just like its name, it’s currently under development. It’s natural that they’re no such facilities as inns built yet. It should be expected that camping out on the streets is normal.
And all of them are young men in this situation. It was almost like a situation where a lamb is waiting to be eaten up by a pack of wolves.
「You’re? ……Aah, the baggage carrier huh. Seriously, we don’t need someone like you at all. 」
The men seemed to have regard Ardis as someone bothering them.
「Yup, there’s not much baggage at all. Why not leave everything to us, Sister-san? 」
The men had a smile and started conversing with Solte in a friendly way. But, Ardis saw through them. Their eyes weren’t like what escort have towards their employer, but rather eyes towards prey.
It was so obvious that even Ardis, a man can notice. And needless to say, being a girl meant that she is more sensitive to such gazes, Solte must’ve noticed it too. That’s the reason why Solte is anxious and didn’t dare to ask her female classmates to accompany her.
「Kiddo. It’s your last chance here. It’s not a playground we’re going. You might even lose your life? 」
Towards Ardis, the man with the dimple said while exuding pressure.
Their age seems to be around twenty to twenty-five. It’s natural that they’re treating Ardis who only looks like a fifteen-year-old boy as a kid.
「Not kiddo. It’s Ardis. I’m a mercenary too. 」
「Hmph, some runaway magician huh. Why not take off those swords that you won’t even use and wear some proper defensive gear? 」
Looking at Ardis’s equipment, the dimple man judged that Ardis is a magician by himself.
But at the same time, Ardis found out something as well. After the subjugation of the Three Great Demons, Ardis is kind of a celebrity in the capital. Even for people that had never met him before, they would identify the person with 『Black hair』 and named 『Ardis』 as the sword magic user.
But it seems that the mercenaries here didn’t even react after hearing Ardis’s name and looking at the swords that can be said as his trademark. It’s highly probable that they’ve just arrived in the capital not long ago, or some party that was based in another town.
Ardis had concluded as such.
Exactly because that they’re in the capital, there’re more mercenaries here than other towns. It would be different if they’re famed mercenaries, but there’re no reason to hire these people as escorts.
Ardis couldn’t understand what the people in the church was thinking when they hired such bunch.
(I can’t leave it like this huh)
Ardis sighed in his mind, and asked Solte who seemed to be afraid of the men while being surrounded.
「Then? When’s the departure? Meetup place? 」
「A-Ardis-san! Then! 」
There was joy in Solte’s eyes when she heard that.
「No choice. The request as a baggage carrier, I shall accept that. 」