In the grasslands dyed in the color of sunset. The sword that stopped the sharp slash that came without any notice let out a ringing noise.
The young man who was on the defense swung his sword, but it was parried by the other middle age man with a short hair easily. Even as his stance broke, the young man that had black hair continued his assault with the swords flying by his side――.
「Too late! 」
They were all struck into the dirt in a single swing.
Surrounding the middle age man were more than ten swords of various sizes floating in the air. On the other hand, the young man only had four, it was a clear disadvantage.
It would’ve been fine if the young man could manipulate more but, all he can handle was only four. If so, he could only use what he has now.
The young man advanced despite knowing his disadvantage. Stopping the movement of his opponent using the sword in his right hand, then immediately aiming for the throat with the sword in his left hand.
At the same time, leaving only one sword behind for defense, he manipulated the remaining three flying swords and circled them to his opponent’s back.
The middle age man lightly dodged the attacks that came horizontally, and defended against the thrust by forming a shield made from three flying swords. The swords that made a triangular shape with a gap in the middle stopped the young man’s attack right in the eye, and it started spinning the next moment, entangling the blade.
Using another five flying swords to defend against the three swords that came from behind, the middle-aged man finally switched onto the offense.
Easily sending the last sword that the young man had in the air for defense flying, the middle-aged man smiled as he continued his attacks on the young man who only had the two swords in his hands.
Continuing the attack without any pauses in between, one of the middle-aged man’s sword stuck itself onto the ground.
The young man was startled by the unexpected action and glanced at the ground for a moment, but it seems like the opponent was aiming for that, as the sword that was stuck in the ground suddenly shoveled a bunch of dirt onto the young man’s face.
The gap when the young man covered his face from the dirt, the middle-aged man wouldn’t possibly let it go.
Dealing a blow with his all, the sword that the young man held in his hands was blew away. The young man who lost his balance panickily tried to get back up but stopped when he felt the cold blade at his neck.
Contrary to the young man who glared with a frustrated look, the middle-aged man who won the fight dispelled his serious mood and started talking casually.
「Still too naïve, Ardis. 」
While saying so, he patted the young man’s head with the sword’s side.
「You’re too dependent on numbers, even if you had two swords in your hand, what you can exert is lesser than one sword. 」
「There’s no choice. I can’t control that much flying swords. 」
Ardis retorted sharply. The man sighed deeply, putting his swords back in their scabbards, and crouched down in front of Ardis.
「Ardis. How long has it been since you came? 」
「……Seven, eight years. 」
「During that, what did you see? Seriously, only your body size grew. 」
With a lamenting expression, the man plopped himself on the ground.
「Even if you added one or two more half boiled attack, it doesn’t mean much to the opponent. Rather than that, you’re just creating more gaps in your stance. 」
「But, what? 」
「I can’t use magic as well as everyone, and the bow too……」
「Listen here. It isn’t a matter if you can use strong magic or what. If that’s the case, why do you think we have an army to fight? Isn’t it so that we can cover each other? It’s not like you can’t use them at all, it’s enough if you understand the principle of magic. 」
「Because of that I can only manipulate four swords at once, it’s hatefully pathetic. 」
「Four is enough. More doesn’t mean better here. You will just get beat up if you’re that conscious about numbers. Rather than useless tricks, polish your sword skills more. I told you before but, you’re more suited to swordsmanship. 」
Ardis who still seemed unconvinced tried to talk back to the middle-aged man but during that time, angry voices interrupted.
「Oi Greihs! Don’t just take someone else’s sword simply! 」
「Ah, that guy! He even used mine! 」
「If I find any marks on my blade, the sharpening fees will be on you! 」
As if retorting back to the voices, the middle-aged man turned around and yelled back angrily.
「Noisy! Just have it on yourselves if you don’t want it to be taken! I won’t give a single damn even if it’s nicked! 」
Seeing the man’s hair that had a mix of white, Ardis felt powerless. He was the one who made Ardis into a pancake the first time they met, having told that 「You’re ten years early to win. 」
Ardis had requested teachings, stolen techniques, imitated styles, and chased after his figure, but it’s still unknown if their gap had narrowed at all. There’s only about two or three years left, a short time that Ardis wondered if he could surpass the man.
「Now then. 」
Greihs who finished his yelling faced back to Ardis.
「Listen here, Ardis. Don’t play fairly. 」
「What. You want me to use a cowardly trick like the one just now? 」
Ardis asked with displeasure disagreeing. He was referring to the act that the man had stabbed a sword into the ground and flipped dirt into his face to blind Ardis temporarily.
「Something like that is not even close to cowardly. Something truly cowardly would be more underhanded than that. With dirt that you’re standing on, and if your face is covered in it, anyone could understand if they thought a little. And it’s your own carelessness to have not guarded against that. 」
Greihs drew one of his flying swords closer.
「Don’t send your swords out like an idiot. Mask the numbers. Attack from a blind spot. Even better, might as well paint it with some color and camouflage it like a piece of wood, or use some kind of needle that no one would think it can be used like a sword, or conceal some daggers in your clothes whatnot. 」
While swinging around his hands and legs as if showing an example, Ardis still had an unconvinced expression on his face.
Seemingly having some discontent in his eyes, Greihs became serious.
「If you want to die with that fair and pretty fight of yours, then scram and be a knight and die. A battlefield for us mercenaries isn’t so easy for you to be surviving by fighting with cavalry. I don’t need someone who will die uselessly because of that. No matter how pathetic and ugly, or how underhandedly, what I need is someone who would struggle to survive no matter what. 」
Greihs asked with a slightly loosened expression.
「What will Ruu do if you died? At the very least, she needs you around, you understand that as well, right? 」
「If I died, then you――」
「Of course I will look after her. But Ardis. For me, Ruu is just another subordinate. But Ruu isn’t like that to you, right? The same for the other way. 」
The young man with black hair couldn’t think of anything to say back.
「Ardis, fight more underhandedly. Don’t narrow down your choices to win. Throw away useless pride for the sake of surviving. Someone who can’t even protect himself is dreaming of protecting his girl? 」
「……I’m not convinced yet but, ……I will keep that in mind. 」
Ardis compromised with a bitter face.
Hearing that Greihs stood up after nodding satisfied.
「Good, the teaching is over! We will move to another fight tomorrow. Quickly go eat something and sleep! 」
Greihs seemed to remember something when he turned around and see Ardis starting to nod off while lying on the grass.
「Right, Ardis. Don’t you have something to do? Haa? What the heck you’re doing. Wake up quickly. It’s not somewhere you can nod off――」
Greihs raised the sword still in its scabbard and swung down onto Ardis with strength.
Ardis who took the swing from Greihs woke up at the overwhelming killing intent and rolled to his side.
「Tch! Woke up already!? 」
There was a man’s voice in the dark.
Ardis grasped the situation immediately. He’s in the camping tent. And there were two other shadows besides Ardis.
「Just a fluke! 」
Although he couldn’t see their faces, their voices were familiar. It’s the mercenary escorts that had been around Solte for the past few days.
「Quickly finish here! I don’t want to be late for the main event! 」
After going around all the settlement as required by the church, Ardis and the others had been on the way back since yesterday.
The second night after the departure from the last settlement. They camped in the night as usual. In the darkness, Ardis had understood the situation by using mana detection on the two mercenaries.
He couldn’t sense anyone else other than the two in front of him near the camp. The three remaining mercenaries and Solte are somewhere further.
「So you’ve revealed your true colors finally huh. 」
Ardis’s voice reverberated inside the dark tent.
「If you’re attacking someone in his sleep, then I’m sure you have the resolve to be on the receiving end? 」
「Ha―! A mere baggage carrier getting carried away! 」
「Don’t think you have any chance at winning against true mercenaries! 」
Ardis declared in a really fed up voice.
「Don’t call yourself a mercenary if you can’t even gauge someone’s strength. 」
Before the mercenaries could rush at him with anger, Ardis cut off the rope that was supporting the tent with his magic. As the rope was cut, the tent which had lost its support collapsed.
The tent covered the two mercenaries, but Ardis had dodged it easily.
「Shit! This tent! 」
In front of Ardis, there was the two figure squirming around in the now collapsed tent. After looking at them with a cold glance for a moment, Ardis finished them off with 『Springtime Mist』 and 『Moon’s Blizzard』.
After verifying that blood had spilled and wet the tent, Ardis searched the surrounding with mana again.
There were a few beasts in his radius, and the four human-sized mana signature he detected were still there. They had left the route that they had planned for return and went into the forest about two hundred meters deep. There was where Solte and the remaining three mercenaries are at.
It isn’t that much of a distance. But the problem was there is another new mana signature that Ardis had detected now. It wasn’t there just a few moments ago, it had just popped up in his radius in his second detection.
It was about a human size like the others but, it was evidently different in league than Solte and even the mercenaries. On top of that, it is moving towards Solte and the others now.
「Demonic being? 」