Ardis who had his reunion with Rona headed back to the capital along with Solte.
Rona who can only be described as a gigantic beast would only draw attention. They already had a trouble at the gate with the soldiers but, thanks to Solte’s identity as the Saintess Candidate, they were allowed to pass somehow.
The fact that Ardis whose name is known in the capital is the one who brought the beast here probably helped as well.
While pulling Rona along who seemed like he would run off at any time thanks to the attractive smell of the food stalls lining up the streets of the capital, they sent Solte back to the church.
「Is that so……. I’m terribly sorry that Sister Solte had to experience such horrible things. 」
The one who came to receive them from the church’s side was the priest with plump ears that guided Ardis before. Inside the empty dining hall of the church, Solte and Ardis sat on one side with the plump-eared priest on the other, and Rona curled on the ground.
「Oh, Goddess……, please forgive me for my inexperience. 」
Finishing the explanation about Solte getting assaulted by the mercenary escorts, the priest held his hands together and begged for mercy from the Goddess.
Aren’t you messing up who you’re supposed to beg for forgiveness? Ardis thought. But since it felt like it’s going to spell troubles if he said it and having known that the Goddess believers are all bunch like him, Ardis kept it to himself.
「I’m came back fine, so please don’t blame yourself so much. 」
On top of all, Solte herself was saying such, Ardis being the third party decided not to interrupt.
「Then, what happened to him in the end? 」
From how the situation transpired and what the mercenaries said, the chances of someone behind them giving them the orders to harm Solte are high.
From what the priest says, it seems that the mercenaries had even forged the request letter. The mercenaries had taken on the escort role after bringing the forged letter to the church.
Although many argued that it was just a slight mistake on the church’s part, the plump-eared priest still felt uneasy and investigated on his own, successfully finding out the truth and catching the forger.
「Don’t know. The one who wrote the letter in question was already apprehended. Since there’re originally only a few people who are responsible for issuing out request letters in the church, we were able to determine the culprit easily. But――」
「The motive is unknown. The people who interrogated him concluded that 『It’s probably that he wanted money』 but, it’s unlikely that it’s a coincidence that the forged letter is used for harming Sister Solte in mind. 」
「The person’s own confession? 」
The priest shook his head.
「He never did speak anything from the start. But, now that it’s revealed that Sister Solte is harmed in the process, the interrogation would probably resume, even more harshly. He will probably spit out everything in three days but, who knows what kind of reason he would give……. At the very least, it doesn’t seem like he can get away with just a misconduct punishment. 」
「In other words? 」
Ardis sent a questioning gaze.
「It’s possible that there’re others who are linked to this case, at the very least, I’m suspecting such. 」
Ardis felt that those eyes changed to ones with caution.
「I see. 」
Ardis ended that topic by cutting his reply short.
「Well, now it’s clear what happened. I guess, rather than clear, it’s now clear that you guys don’t know anything. Either way, it’s the church’s problem from now on. It’s not something I can say or do anything about. 」
Ardis who heard what he wanted to ask stood up.
「Ah, please wait for a moment! 」
Ardis who was leaving was stopped by Solte.
「The completion compensation hasn’t been paid yet. Priest-sama, the compensation for the request? 」
「Yes, I have it here with me. 」
As Solte looked over and confirmed with him, the priest with the plump ears held up the leather pouch that he had with him.
「Don’t need it. 」
Leaving behind Solte who was confused at what he was saying, Ardis started making his way to the entrance of the dining hall.
「W-Wait please? It’s the compensation for the escort――I mean, the baggage carrying? Please accept it. 」
「I don’t want it so I won’t take it. 」
「But why? 」
Solte caught up with Ardis and held him by his wrist.
「I don’t have the right to take it. 」
Ardis revealed the reason to Solte who didn’t want him to leave.
「There’s no way you don’t have the right. The fact that I was able to return safely is thanks to Ardis-san too. 」
「It’s just a coincidence you’re safe. I might’ve been late if Rona wasn’t there. It’s my mistake to endanger the escort target. That’s why I won’t accept any compensation. 」
「But……, it’s my fault for following them out on my own……」
「Then it’s my responsibility for allowing that happen. 」
Ardis who wouldn’t compromise the least, and Solte who wouldn’t give up.
Although the Saintess Candidate with the cherry blossom hair was frowning, Ardis didn’t have any intentions of accepting it. With an unreachable answer in sight, Solte let out an unusual yell.
「No! You will take the compensation. No matter what, I’ve returned safely, Ardis-san had watched over me the entire time. 『It’s moral to repay favors』! Ardis-san has the obligation to take it! 」
Even Ardis seemed a little surprised at such stubborn Solte, but then decided that it would be trouble to refuse any longer, Ardis decided to compromise while sighing.
「Then the compensation, give it to Rona. 」
「Eh? To Divi――, Rona-sama? 」
Solte corrected herself who almost spurted out Divine Beast-sama. Rona by himself is already an attention grabber. On top of that, if the Saintess Candidate were to call him as Divine Beast-sama, the consequences can’t be imagined.
That’s why Ardis had reminded her countless time to not call Rona as 『Divine Beast-sama』 but just 『Rona』, but it seems that her habit still stuck.
「That’s right. It was Rona who helped you out when you were in danger. Rona has the right to take it. 」
「Eh? Umm……. If……, if Ardis-san is saying so……」
Solte seemed confused even as she agreed. Is that fine, with such question marks on her head, Solte received the pouch from the priest and stood in front of Rona.
「Then, umm……Rona-sama. Please receive this. 」
Rona cried out as he received the pouch. The golden beast bit onto the pouch it was handed over to and faced Ardis.
「I guess it’s time to go. 」
「Ardis-san. Despite the urgent request this time, you’ve helped me again. If Ardis-san has any troubles, I will do my best to help, so please do visit again. 」
「……Yeah, when I’m feeling it. 」
Ardis would’ve said that he would excuse himself for coming to a place that worships the Goddess for another time. But even Ardis understood that he shouldn’t speak such on an occasion like this.
After replying vaguely to Solte, Ardis left some words to the plump-eared priest.
「Don’t loosen up the guards for Solte for a while. 」
The priest who received such gaze from Ardis face on returned a challenging gaze back to Ardis.
「I will do so without you reminding. 」
「It was kinda unpleasant――」
Ardis and Rona who exited the church walked out on the streets lined with stalls. As expected, they couldn’t talk openly in a street filled with people, that’s why they’re conversing in a soft voice.
「That’s expected. It’s not like we will ever meet again, don’t need to care. 」
「I guess so. Well, meeting with Solte is fine though. That priest guy was really unpleasant. He totally looks at Al with suspicions. Did you do something? 」
「Nothing that I recall. 」
「I mean, he’s wouldn’t be glaring at you like that if you didn’t do anything―― Ah, that looks good. Hey Al, buy that for me. I have some money on me, here. 」
Biting by the pouch that had the compensation in it by the time Ardis noticed, Rona stretched it out towards Ardis.
Rona was looking at a food stall. There were meat skewers roasting by the fire, the fragrance was spreading all over the street. It’s roasted Momo skewers.
Ardis bought the roasted Momo skewers in place of Rona, and handed it to his partner who is acting as a normal beast. He bought one for himself as well.
Although it was flavored simple with just salt, the juicy meat and the umami unfolded in his mouth. Is it because of the ingredients, or is it a difference in skill. Ardis couldn’t roast something this delicious. Bu the time Ardis finished savoring one-person portion of the skewer, Rona had already leveled five persons worth.
「Al had always been easy to make enemies. It’s like you’re always going around making enemies, or you just plainly don’t care if anyone’s your enemy. 」
With stains around his mouth, Rona continued the talk from before.
「I didn’t have the intentions to do so though……」
「Then that’s an even bigger problem. It’s your aptitude to make enemies easily, that’s already bad by itself you know? Couldn’t you put more effort in avoiding that? 」
「Shut up. 」
Ardis had an expression like he’d heard enough. The reason behind that expression with fatigue wasn’t because of Rona’s words.
「Greihs said it too right. 『Lessen your foes before the war is what a good general would do』. Al would be better off making less enemies. 」
「I know at least that much. 」
The reason why Ardis who is known as the 『Subjugator of the Three Great Demons』 was showing such an expression was――.
「It’s Al’s bad habit to reply without thinking like that――Ah, that looks good too. Al, buy it for me please. 」
It was because Rona would suddenly pause and ask him to buy more food. Because of that, they haven’t advanced much, the destination they had to arrive was still far away.
The crispy sweet candy, and freshly picked fruits, and meat roll with fragrant sauce on them. All of them are cheap by themselves but, the amount that Rona consumes is incomparably more than others. The silver coins that had filled the pouch had gone more and more into the pockets of the stall owners.
「Well, the priest guy hasn’t taken you as an enemy completely. He probably thinks that Al is a bunch with those mercenaries. 」
Ardis laughed at that absurd conjecture.
「That doesn’t make sense. In the first place, Solte was the one who brought the request onto me? On top of that, the one time I’ve met her before was several months ago. If it wasn’t a nominated request from Solte, I wouldn’t even set foot near the church. 」
「People like them don’t see far. In the first place, there couldn’t be any upstanding ones worshipping that crazy woman. 」
「I’m on the same for that one, but with that logic, Solte is also the same? 」
Ardis asked teasingly, but Rona replied as if it’s natural.
「Solte is different though―. She gives me candy. 」
「Don’t judge someone differently because they give you candy or not. You’re just too trusting. 」
「Solte is a good kid though? Even without the candy. 」
「What’s the basis of that? 」
The black-haired young man threw out that question seemingly he’s about to sigh, and Rona replied seriously.
「My wild instincts, I guess? 」
Ardis was staring at Rona surprised.
「Wild instincts, huh……」
The golden beast was carrying a large shopping bag over its neck. His partner who would get excited at the food from the stalls and stop, 「Al, buy that for me please. 」.
Since Ardis was getting irritated by the fact they couldn’t advance because of that, he suggested 「You can buy more, but leave the eating for later」, and got a shopping bag on Rona’s neck, putting all the food Rona bought in there.
Thanks to that, they moved a little faster than before but, the bag around Rona’s neck only grew in size. The reason why the food wouldn’t spill out from the bag is thanks to Rona taking a bite at them every so often.
Walk, talk, and sticking his head in the bag, eat, and walk. The way he looks as he walked down the streets eating seemed like he’s a useless son of some rich family. Where could the beast’s wild instincts came from.
With a cold gaze, Ardis snorted.
「……There’s no convincing factor behind that. 」