Ardis sat on the carpet on the ground, and his neck was immediately captured from behind by Fillia. As the seat above his crossed legs is still open, Riana occupied it quickly.
It’s a strange scene considering their ages but, it just shows how important Ardis is for the twins. Moreover, it’s a reunion in few months, it’s as expected.
Ardis ruffled such twin’s hair. A rough ruffling sound was only heard but, the twins were smiling and giggling, seemingly enjoying it.
「My master. Are there any progress? 」
「Still nothing for now. We went around about half of the ruins and alike there but, since the war happened, there’s no time for that. 」
Subjugating the Three Great Demons and participating in the Reiten’s defense battle, the reason why Ardis is still continuing his work as a mercenary even after earning enough money to last his whole life, was not for money.
Although Kyrill wasn’t clear about it, it seems like Ardis is looking for something, that’s what he had read between the lines. After finishing searching inside the kingdom and the west Coalition, the northern republic, he was heading for the neighboring empire as the last destination, but the war started.
Since he was almost about to get caught into the empire’s mercenary squad, he had retreated in panic.
「Ardis-san, did you hear that the kingdom army got utterly beaten in the first battle? 」
To be precise, it’s the capital army that was crushed, it’s not the entire kingdom military. But for the masses, the news of 『Defeat, total destruction』 is making them uneasy. Rather than actual numbers, the psychological damage is harsh.
「Yeah. It was a festival in the imperial capital. Singing their long-lasting wish is close to completion, more soldiers are volunteering to join the war. Even the top heads at the empire thought that it is a chance to end it this time. They had even gathered quite strong mercenaries, of course with befitting compensation for them. 」
「What is the 『Cavalry squad riding on unfamiliar beasts』 that appeared actually? 」
「Has the news not reached here yet? 」
With the country border tightened after the war started, almost no one is travelling between the two country, any news in the imperial capital haven’t arrived at the kingdom yet. Rather, it’s strange how Ardis could return so easily.
「I’m not entirely clear either but it seems like they came from the southern continent. 」
「Southern continent? 」
The unexpected answer made Kyrill’s eyes go round.
The south of the Rovres continent where the Nagras Kingdom and Elmenia Empire situates, there’re other continents. But it is just 『It may exist』, there isn’t any concrete proof.
Although there are some who arrive from the southern continent after drifting in the ocean, all of them weren’t aiming to sail to Rovres continent in the first place.
Although there are many exploratory ships that went out to the south to find the continent in question, there weren’t anyone who made it back in one piece. The ships of Rovres continent only sail along the coastlines normally. A continent as the destination which the distance isn’t even clear, no one is skillful enough to achieve that.
「It seems like the Empire had allied with a country from the southern continent. The cavalry seems to be their reinforcements. As for the unfamiliar beasts, they’re probably from the other continent. 」
Kyrill’s face clouded over.
「It’s unknown whether that cavalry is mercenaries or soldiers, but in any case, they have the technology to send forces through the ocean. If that’s so, there’s possibility that they will send more men……」
「Yeah, it’s possible. 」
Ardis confirmed Kyrill’s worries.
The power between the kingdom and the empire is in balance. Rather, was in balance. Recently, the kingdom had been gaining in power steadily, it was advantageous in comparison to the empire.
If it’s one country against another, it will be advantageous, but now it’s two country against one, of course the kingdom would be inferior. That is why, the kingdom had maintained a good relationship with the Republic in the north and the Coalition in the west, it is so that their only opponent that they have to worry is the empire.
Even the kingdom’s top brains, didn’t expect the slightest that the empire was able to form an alliance with a country outside of the continent.
「The kingdom……, can we win? 」
「Who knows. I heard it was a grand defeat the first time around but, there’re still many remaining forces from other territories and also drafted soldiers to consider. Including the reinforcements, the empire’s power had increased to who knows where but, it’s not a situation the Kingdom can’t get through with proper formation at the important place. 」
In other words, it will be a painful war, it was equal to saying that 『Winning is impossible』.
「Although, I don’t think the kingdom army is so weak that the enemy can even conquer the capital but――」
Just in case, Ardis continued.
「Kyrill, wouldn’t it be better you return? 」
Kyrill is originally a citizen of Reiten of the Coalition. Although he came to the Nagras Kingdom’s capital to enroll in the academy, there’s no reason to continue studying in the academy when the danger of war is so close.
Kyrill had thought of returning to Reiten as well when the declaration of war happened.
But then, although Nere is still here, he didn’t felt comfortable escaping by himself with the twins still here while Ardis is still away, there’s not really any reason other than that for him to stay despite being unrelated to the war.
「I thought to do so but……」
「Is there something on your mind? 」
Kyrill was about to say was asked by Ardis if there was anything.
「The academy students were ordered to move as well……」
The prime reason is pathetic defeat of the Kingdom. With the standing army of the capital almost on the brink of ruins, the opposing force of the empire has an overwhelming upper hand.
To fill that gap. They hurriedly gathered and drafted soldiers and mercenaries to increase their power. If it wasn’t so, Kyrill would have no other reason to stay by. In any case, the same order had been passed to the students that had combat capabilities.
「Are they trying to bring students out to the war too? 」
「The original vision of the establishment of the academy, was apparently to prepare for something like this. 」
In order to make a reason that satisfied the nobles that hated the idea of giving power to commoners, the main founding justification was put to be 『We are raising assets to be used when the country is in danger』. And the military had remembered such fact it seems.
Although it was only a sentence to make the opposition nobles shut up. In fact, there wasn’t any records that students from the academy actually participated in a war.
It’s probably because the Kingdom’s power was still in balance with the Empire’s. The Kingdom wasn’t so fallen they have to rely on students’ strength, there was such pride among the military as well, so the one sentence had been only a form of vision after the establishment.
But this time around, the first battle that they had lost so pathetically made the military no longer have any choice. The disadvantageous situation that the enemy is overwhelmingly strong, their attitude changed 180 degrees around and asked help from the academy.
As the vision of establishment was still being sung, the academy couldn’t reject them. Although there isn’t any official announcement from the academy’s side yet, it’s suspected that they will send out students from both warrior and magician’s course to the frontline, and the other students would support the supply line or act as medics.
By the way, the one that received the mobilizing order was just the Mariules Academy, the Royal Academy which had nobles in them was of course excluded.
「In any case, I’m glad you’re back. If Ardis-san would have participated the war on the Empire’s side, I can’t imagine how is it going to be. 」
Kyrill’s smile that had a shadow was directed to Ardis.
「Kyrill is going somewhere――? 」
「When returning――? 」
Kyrill’s both arms were pulled by the twins.
「U-Unn……. Let’s see, till when huh……I’m not entirely sure either. 」
「Definitely coming back? 」
The twins’ expression was different than usual. Riana’s expression that had elements of unease was looking at Kyrill.
「It’s fine. I will return. 」
「Really? Promise? 」
Fillia was looking straight into Kyrill’s eyes with a pure gaze. The blue pupils with a greenish tint reflected his own face, Kyrill smiled bitterly at the surprisingly pathetic face of his.
「Yeah, I promise. 」
He said so, but in his heart, he added 『If I can survive. 』
「Umu, it’s a promise! If you lied, then will be three storybooks worth of compensation! 」
Properly putting a penalty that would benefit themselves, Kyrill was a little happy at their growth.
Thanks to the twins, Kyrill had somewhat regained his normal face again, while Ardis took out something from his bag and threw it at Kyrill. Kyrill panickily took it into his hands, and the twins beside him seemed curious as well.
It was a pair of gloves.
Unlike the thick leather gloves that mercenaries usually wear, it was a pair of gloves made from thin fabric that seems to fit well. Since the entire glove is white, it felt like it’s something more fitting for a noble’s daughter or rich family’s daughter.
「It’s my souvenir. Got it from a ruin while I looked around in the empire, it has quite an interesting trick in it. Kyrill, I’ll let you have it. 」
「Interesting trick? 」
「It’s a defensive spell. It automatically activates just by wearing it, remember to have it on when you’re out on the battlefield. 」
Anything that’s imbued with spells are very expensive. They’re items found from ancient ruins, rare items that can’t be reproduced with the current technology.
A price that would make people drop their eyes can be offered if they took it to a suitable merchant.
But he would throw something as precious like this, Kyrill renewed his view on Ardis’s detachedness from commonsense.
Although it wouldn’t be an item taken as lightly as a souvenir, since it’s imbued with a defensive spell, for Kyrill that is soon going on a battlefield, it’s nothing more befitting.
「Thank you very much. 」
That is why, Kyrill accepted Ardis’ good will and lowered his head.
Raising his head, Ardis was looking straight at him seriously.
「What is it? 」
「You’re not a mercenary, you have no relationship with the mercenaries and soldiers on the battlefield, mercenaries that participates in the war, the most important thing for them, do you understand? 」
Kyrill wasn’t overconfident in his strength. Although he knew that Ardis is a being outside commonsense, he wasn’t someone that had dreams that normal boys like to have.
He wasn’t thinking to raise his fame in his first war or anything, and he noticed that Ardis didn’t want him to do so as well. That is why, Ardis had given him the gloves that had defensive spell imbued in it.
With that in mind, Kyrill took some time to think what he should be most aware of, and spoke of the conclusion he came to.
「……It’s to not die. 」
Ardis had a satisfied smile.
「Don’t think about defeating the enemies or what. Choose the method that ensures your survival rate most. Don’t mess up your purpose, your purpose isn’t to win, but to not die. Don’t ever forget that. 」
Kyrill burnt Ardis’s words in his mind. At the same time he felt the mysterious weight behind Ardis’s words, he also felt a little strange at why someone that wouldn’t be much older than him had such a profound weight.
Did he participate in a war before? For a mercenary, a battlefield is something of their nature. But in the past ten years, there wasn’t any war-like war on the Rovres continent.
Certainly, Ardis’s appearance is young. Four years ago, he didn’t look much older than when Kyrill first met him. Ardis looked like a proper adult that time but, come to think of it, he looked just like a young man that had just become an adult.
If he was fifteen or sixteen then, he would be twenty now. Someone that young experiencing a war, Kyrill didn’t know anyone like that. Albeit so, it’s not anything important to Kyrill. The important thing is to not make an enemy of Ardis.
Honestly speaking, he wished Ardis would participate the war as a mercenary on the Kingdom’s side. But Ardis had already amassed a great fortune from the Three Great Demons as well as the Reiten’s defense battle. There’s no reason for him to be risking his life now.
That’s why, Kyrill hadn’t said anything about Ardis’s participation, but just, 「Yes, I understand」, keeping the reply short, he nodded.