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「Sorry for the trouble this late, Sister-chan. 」
「No. Since everyone had been a huge help so far, please don’t mind it. 」
Solte was walking together with the leader of the escorts a little ways from the campsite.
「That really helps. After all, we would need to carry him out of the forest immediately normally. 」
Solte was woken up in the middle of the night by the mercenaries in request of her help. She heard that one of the mercenaries was hurt when fighting against a beast.
「We thought it would be good to fight the beasts further away to not involve Sister-chan but……, we’re really failures in escorts that it became like this. 」
The man seemed to be down, Solte shook her head and denied.
「No, please don’t think so. It’s thanks to everyone that we’ve made it so far safely. It’s just bad luck this time around. Fortunately, I’m confident in my healing magic. I will make sure that he can walk normally again. 」
「That would be great. Really great……」
The man who answered in such a way made Solte felt uneasy for a moment, but she decided to dismiss it the next moment. Solte was afraid and suspected the mercenaries because of their attitudes and actions before, that’s why she had requested Ardis to come along with her.
But so far, the mercenaries had been carrying out the escort request finely, there weren’t any big troubles. Their attitudes are still too casual as usual but, it might be that’s just their natural personality.
The gazes they had for Solte as well, they were those of young men directed to the opposite gender, she recalled a conversation she had about that with a senior sister in the church.
With that, Solte thought that she might just be too overly suspicious as the journey went on.
It would be Solte’s fault if she treated them wrongly just because she was suspicious of them. Even if she never spoke of it, it probably showed on her attitude, and that might’ve hurt the mercenaries’ feelings.
That would be a misconduct as someone who believes and executes under the name of the Goddess. Solte thought that was shameful, that’s why she decided to interact with the mercenaries the best she can during the journey.
Certainly, she still felt uneasy somewhere in her heart. But Solte still felt that it was her inexperience to let her feelings affect her judgement.
「But, wouldn’t it be better if Ardis-san and the others accompanied us? 」
The girl continued. Even if she never spoke it loudly, the fear residing in her heart seemed to be swelling.
「Don’t worry too much. Those two will watch over him surely. And leaving the baggage carrier-kun at the safe campsite would be better. 」
Two mercenary escorts stayed behind in the campsite together with Ardis.
The man explained that it would just endanger them more if they had to protect another noncombatant. It would be easier for them as escorts as well, he added on.
Solte doubted it would be better if they split their combative forces up but, she felt hesitation to dispute a mercenary who had fought more occasions than her.
「Is that so……」
「And it’s not like it’s that far. We’re soon there. 」
Just as the man said so, there were figures of human started to be seen.
Two men standing in the darkness. And the lantern in their hands lighted up the surrounding trees dimly.
Seeing that, Solte unconsciously asked.
「What’s the matter? Sister-chan? 」
「No, isn’t his legs injured……? 」
One of the mercenaries had their legs injured fighting with beasts. Because the injury was fatal, they couldn’t return to the tent, that’s why Solte was called out here to heal him. It was supposed to be that.
She doubted if she understood wrongly, as her legs stopped. The two mercenaries ahead were standing on their feet, with no signs of injury anywhere. And when the two had walked here, the uneasiness that Solte had suppressed so far started to spill forth again.
「U-Umm……. What could this mean? 」
Although she couldn’t see properly in the darkness, it was evident that the two mercenaries walking her way didn’t show any signs of injury on their legs. At the question asked by the girl with trembling voice, the mercenary leader behind laughed.
「Kuku, ku-ku-ku. What a naïve little miss. Don’t you understand just by seeing? 」
Solte who turned around saw the man who laughed sarcastically with a hateful expression. He seemed more like a predator than a human as he looked over the girl from top to bottom.
「Man, I thought it was going to be super hard since you had your guard in the beginning, but you just trusted us after we just moved a little seriously. As expected of the future Saintess-sama, her naivety is topnotch. 」
His voice increased in volume as he added on gestures with his body.
「What……, do you mean? 」
The same question came from the girl’s mouth. Needless to say, Solte who is already fifteen years old could understand that it wasn’t a good situation. But could it be that her mind refused to accept reality, or her wish that it was just some misunderstanding caused her to repeat her question.
「Nn? Still don’t get it? Well, it would be a pity if you died without knowing anything――」
Died, Solte’s shoulders jumped at that words.
「――In short, there’re some people, who really wants Sister-chan dead even if it costed them a fortune. 」
Seeing Solte who lost her words, the man added on with a look of satisfaction.
「Don’t be so upset over it, it’s not like you’re dying now. At the very least, you will be alive until we get tired of you」
「……From the start, ……it was like this? 」
The girl who managed to squeeze out a few words was replied with 「Of course」 from the mercenaries.
Solte who heard that felt her vision turned dark immediately. The uneasiness and fear she felt so far wasn’t wrong.
It was the result brought forth by dismissing her own senses and instincts. Solte regretted over her judgement and her own foolishness. Weighing the teaching of the church that one should treat all fairly too much, it was none other than herself who brought this predicament upon her.
「Oi, quickly move. It’s only seven days we can play around with how much food we have. 」
One of the mercenaries prompted to hurry. With those words as the trigger, Solte immediately turned around and started to run――.
「Woah, we can’t have the main heroine escape now. 」
The leader grasped her arm tightly.
「No! Please let go! 」
「Don’t be so loud. Let’s just have some fun together. 」
「No! Let go! 」
Solte desperately swung her hand in attempt to shake the man off, but the difference in strength was evident. Even if Solte is talented, she was still a young girl that couldn’t escape from the grasp of a mercenary that had trained their body by fighting against beasts.
「Someone, help! ――Ardis-san! 」
「Haha―, that baggage carrier had probably gone ahead first in his sleep. 」
「Just give up will ya. It’s not like anyone would come even if you screamed. 」
One of the mercenaries held down Solte’s hands. And the remaining two only smiled despicably.
「No! Stop it! 」
「Just stay put! You will feel good soon enough! 」
The moment when the man finally managed to grab on Solte’s clothes, a cold voice reverberated from somewhere.
「Seriously. I don’t really have any interest in some other species’ reproductive activities but, it’s being a bother to my ears. 」
It was a voice that seemed like it belonged to a boy with a tinge of feminity. The way the voice spoke had a sense of lisping in it, giving it an impression of someone young. The mercenaries who heard it took up a stance immediately.
「Something spoke? 」
The leader who bound Solte asked the other two mercenaries. But it seems like the ones being asked had no idea as they tilted their head.
One of them surveyed the surrounding with fear. The light from the lantern under the trees where no starlight could reach only added on to the creepy silence.
That moment, wind blew. The wind that came between the trees came at the mercenary who was looking around.
The next moment, Solte saw a headless body soaked in blood. It was still a person a moment before but now it had collapsed onto the ground with blood spewing out of his neck.
「Enemy!? Demonic being!? 」
Releasing his hands that was holding Solte on the ground, the mercenary leader drew the sword from his waist and took a stance.
「Look out! It’s fast! 」
Before the leader’s warning even arrived, the other mercenary had his stomach gouged open even before he drew his weapon.
「From where……! 」
The leader who was speechless was looking at the one who gouged his comrade’s stomach out.
Its body was about a meter long. The four legs that looked strong. The triangular ears on its head, however, the sharp fangs in its mouth that pierced through the mercenary’s armor showed that it’s a strong carnivorous beast.
Along with a thick and large tail that didn’t seem to fit its body size, its whole body shone in a golden color under the lantern light.
The mercenary who had its stomach gouged out spilled out blood from his mouth.
「Shit! This bastard! 」
As if drawing away the demonic being, the mercenary leader swung his sword towards the golden mass. Rather than avoiding it, the demonic being tossed up the mercenary body into the trajectory of the sword swing.
With the leader’s sword sinking into his comrade’s body, a dull sound was heard before a leg was severed.
「To use him as a shield!? 」
The way it fought as if it had intelligence shocked the man.
The next moment, where he looked only had the two corpses of his past comrades. The demonic being which he had glared at a moment ago had disappeared somewhere along the way.
The man looked around in fear. The way he swung around the sword randomly in fear would’ve earned him the title of a comedian if one didn’t know the situation.
But there were no audience to this comedy show. The only ones there were the one mercenary performing the show, the fearful demonic being which took out two mercenaries in a few moments, and a girl who had forgotten herself in the sudden development.
The situation didn’t continue for long. The end came eventually.
Solte saw. The man who was swinging around wildly had his body split into two at his stomach. And the demonic being in golden which did that, it had looked at Solte with eyes that seemed to have sadness in them.