Two days after that. The escort――known as a baggage carrier, Ardis and Solte, together with the mercenary escorts had departed from the capital. Their destination is the three villages that had just been constructed newly at the northern mines.
The northern area is originally filled with dangerous wild beasts. But ever since Ardis had subjugated the demonic being named 『Bell Chaser』, the kingdom which had sortied a large number of soldiers and mercenaries had gone around the valley and hunted, the danger around there isn’t that high now.
It still isn’t completely safe but it’s tolerable for any mercenary who has moderate skill.
From what Ardis sees, the mercenaries’ skills were worse than he expected but, they still can fight to the extent of repelling beasts that came their way.
「Don’t worry Sister Solte-san, we can protect you just fine. 」
Even though it’s obvious that they have their own motives behind their smiles, they’re still doing their job as escorts properly.
Then, the seventh day after going around the villages.
「Finally it’s the end huh. 」
「Yes. I’m glad nothing happened. 」
Solte who finished her work at the last village smiled towards Ardis. Without really encountering any troubles, Solte who had completed her tasks seemed to have something heavy lifted off her chest.
Having said so, her tasks weren’t that big of a deal. Organizing prayer sessions, chatting with the villagers, and looking after the children and preach them the teachings in her free time. They were all ordinary agendas.
Although Ardis didn’t have the slightest goodwill towards the church, the impression he got from Solte doing her best to help the people out wasn’t bad.
「Didn’t you have free time in the village? Why not join the praying session on this occasion? 」
The words that came from the woman who was referred to 『Eventually a Saintess』 by everyone didn’t have any ill intentions.
But that was enough to make any kind of expression on Ardis’s face to disappear.
「Pray? Me? To that woman? What a bad joke. 」
「You’re saying such things again……」
Solte sighed with her shoulders drooping.
「Why is Ardis-san is so stubborn about it? Could it be a hardship in the past? 」
The face that still had elements of a young girl turned to that of a preacher.
「Certainly Goddess-sama would give trials that are sometimes accompanied with hardships to us. But that doesn’t mean she did it with the intentions of making us suffer. It’s her wish for us to break through the hardships. 」
The words of preaching came from her small mouth. But the words that came out only made Ardis’s mood worsen one after another.
「There’s also the argument that the Goddess-sama should save us from such trials but, there’s no point if we don’t conquer them ourselves. She is surely watching over Ardis-san, and she definitely doesn’t mean ill. 」
Solte probably meant goodwill for Ardis and said it because she didn’t know anything about Ardis. Albeit so, those words were poison to Ardis.
For Ardis, the Goddess is the culprit of everything.
「Stop it. It’s for the sake of both of us. 」
It was a scenario that had repeated many times ever since they had visited the first village. The first time was when Solte called out to Ardis with hesitation when he was slacking under the tree shadows since he had nothing to do.
Since then, Solte had been trying to convince Ardis about it but, naturally, their talks always ended up on bad ends. Ardis didn’t have any complaints towards Solte as a person, but he wouldn’t budge on this matter no matter what.
By now, Ardis had already given up stopping her from trying to preach as he thought that it’s natural that nothing can go through someone who believes in the Goddess blindly.
「He―y! Sister-chan! Regarding the departure time tomorrow, the village chief is calling you―! 」
There was a beckon for Solte from afar.
「Ah, yes! I will be right there! 」
The girl turned around, and panickily replied. There isn’t any fear in her expression now.
「Ardis-san. Let’s talk again later. 」
Leaving behind the words that wouldn’t mean anything to Ardis, Solte left. Her cherry blossom hair fluttered as she turned around, and she went close to the mercenary escorts.
Few days had passed since their departure, there was quite a change in Ardis’s and Solte’s relationship. Ardis who had come after agreeing on Solte’s request was affected by his views of the Goddess and a gap formed between them.
Contrarily, Solte only became closer to the mercenaries. Solte who was scared of them at first became less careful at the mercenary escorts. Now, she can even accompany them by herself without having Ardis by her.
Is it inexperience of her age, or is it due to her monastic occupation……. Ardis didn’t know whether she was getting 『Familiar』 or 『Careless』 with the mercenaries.
At the very least, Ardis hadn’t let his guard up a moment, he had promised to help if something did happen to Solte after all.
「Our request is to 『Escort the Sister』. So, there’s no reason for us to protect you. 」
After all, the mercenaries who would speak of such things without a second thought when Solte isn’t around couldn’t possibly make Ardis lower his guard.
「Whatever. If nothing happens, then so be it. 」
The church in capital, Gran. The priest with plump ears who greeted Ardis before was confused.
「What do you mean? 」
「Even if you ask? I’m not clear either……」
The priest was surrounded by five mercenaries.
「We came and accepted the request officially. And you say that the person to be escorted already departed? 」
The young man who seemed to be the leader thrusted out the request letter to the priest.
「It’s certainly……, there’s nothing wrong with the request letter. But……」
The mercenaries here are the mercenaries who are supposed to escort Sister Solte to the mines in the north. There’s no doubt that they’re hired by the church officially.
「The letter states that the departure date is today right? Are you saying that I made a mistake? 」
The young man had a composed tone. He’s holding back his other comrades behind him but, it’s obvious that even himself is irritated by the situation.
That’s natural. From their perspective, it was the church who went against the request contract.
「P-Please wait for a moment. I shall verify it this instant, sorry but please wait for a while. 」
The priests panickily held the mercenaries back and grabbed the letter and hurried to another priest’s room.
「Priest Dredd! 」
The priest whose name is Dredd was at his desk doing paperwork. The priest raised his head and asked the other priest with a surprised expression.
「What’s the matter suddenly? Is it about extending the praying session again? 」
「No, it isn’t something like that. Please take a look at this first! 」
Handing over the request letter to Dredd, the priest explained the situation. After hearing the situation, Dredd stood up and went to the shelves in the corner and took out a file.
Opening it up, and taking out a single letter, Dredd had wrinkles on his forehead as he verified with the other priest again.
「Fumu……. Sister Solte had already departed with the escorts before? 」
「Yes, that’s true. 」
「The letter you brought in just now, there’s certainly the genuine seal from the church on them. But the letter from the other day――」
They moved their gaze to the document that was taken out.
「――The other mercenaries that came before didn’t look like they had a forged letter. 」
Just as Dredd said, the mercenary escorts that had departed together with Solte had request letter that had the church’s genuine seal on them.
「We wouldn’t know unless we asked the ones who issued the letter but, it’s probably just a mistake on our part. 」
Contrary to Dredd’s positive judgement, the plump-eared priest didn’t seem to be convinced.
「Priest Dredd. It might be over worrying but, couldn’t there be insolent fools around who seek to harm Sister Solte? 」
Solte is a widely known church figure, after all, she was highly regarded as the future Saintess candidate. Of course, there’re many admiration gazes that are directed to her, however, there’re those that had envy in them as well.
「Isn’t that just being over-suspicious? There couldn’t be anyone who seeks to harm the Goddess’s loved child. 」
「It might be so. But there’re some bad rumors going around now. 」
「Bad rumors, huh? 」
「Yes. The lots that don’t respect nor fear the Goddess. The people who would go against the Goddess. 」
There were rumors about the Evil God believers who should’ve been wiped out during the war of Gods. The rumor about the Evil God cult’s existence, even if it isn’t credible, the priest felt anger just at the thoughts of someone being disrespectful to the Goddess.
Come to think of it, the mercenaries who came before didn’t have a good impression either. Having not a single female member amongst them despite knowing their escort target is just Solte alone, and they were even too casual in their attitude. That’s why even Solte felt uneasy at their presence, and requested to recruit another person as a baggage carrier.
But recalling the baggage carrier, the priest noticed some strange points. Not just having no respect towards the Goddess, he even felt malice from the baggage carrier.
Because of the priest’s standing, he couldn’t show his anger to one who doesn’t believe in the Goddess, but it didn’t mean he would forgive anyone who took such an attitude to the Goddess.
It was Solte herself who named the baggage carrier. But if he wasn’t wrong, Solte and the baggage carrier only met once before, it might even be that their encounter was even planned by the baggage carrier.
「I heard about that as well but, aren’t you just thinking too much. It’s natural to think that something went wrong when the letter was issued. The mercenaries that came today――. Well, as an apology, they would probably be satisfied if we paid them half the compensation. 」
After deciding their action, Dredd called someone over and gave instructions.
「That would be good if that’s the case……」
Muttering in a voice that only himself could listen, the plump-eared priest couldn’t help but be worried in his mind. It would be the best if it was just a small mistake on the church’s part. What he can do now is to pray to the Goddess for Solte’s safety.