It is the 10th of August when the Kingdom had finished reorganizing their army and departed from the capital.
The reorganized capital army――a thousand, three thousand totals from various territory, drafted soldiers three thousand five hundred, and another five hundred mercenaries.
The one who is commanding the approximately eight thousand men army is the Nagras third prince, together with the royal army general, Ortriht as the vice general.
The royal army general would be the actual one giving out command, the third prince is just a decorative commander. But even as a decorative general, someone of the royal background going to war would prove that the current situation is really grave for the kingdom.
The presence of a royal member in an army significantly boosts their morale. In compensating the difference in number, morale is indispensable.
The rumor has it that the third prince will lead troops of his own. Although he isn’t someone who have special abilities, the third prince is known for his benevolence and kindness.
And Ardis is participating as one of the mercenaries.
Although five hundred mercenaries were gathered from the country and outside the country, it’s still quite less.
The previous loss of the Kingdom must’ve hit hard, not many mercenaries were willing to stand on the side of the Kingdom which is the losing side. Of course, the Kingdom acknowledges the war this time is an important event that concerns the fate of the country. Although the compensation that was given to the mercenaries is a sum that is unprecedented――.
「It’s your life that matters the most. Even many mercenaries in Thoria had sided with the empire. 」
A small statured archer was joking around as they walked.
「Then why is Norris on this side? 」
Ardis who was walking beside him asked.
The Kingdom army that had marched near the border, they had already reached the point that only half a day distance separates the two large forces. The empire that had won the first battle had set up a base and never moved.
It seems like they were intending to welcome the Kingdom army in its fully prepared state. Destroying the Kingdom army that has been reorganized, finishing the old fate with the Kingdom with this one war, such strong intentions from the Empire can be felt.
In fact, if the Kingdom lost this war, they would have no longer any power to defend against the Empire. They could only watch the Empire trample on all their territory as they bite their lips. It is truly the war that will decide the fate of the Kingdom.
That is why the Kingdom had been recruiting mercenaries with a huge compensation. But with not anywhere close to a thousand mercenaries gathered on the Kingdom’s side, the outcome of the war seems gloomy.
Mercenaries that actually participated on the Kingdom’s side, most of them are with reasons like Ardis, or those that came for the money.
As for the 『Bright Stars of White Night』 that is considered one of the best mercenaries in Thoria, they aren’t that troubled with money that their judgement would be clouded by it.
But they chose not to side with the Empire no matter what. Why would they side with the Kingdom’s army, Ardis couldn’t figure out a single answer to that.
「Well, even if the Kingdom crumbles, it’s not like everyone will die. The point is just don’t die, right? 」
The leader, Ted was saying as if it’s nothing.
Even the participation compensation that was paid out already was quite big. Of course, to receive the full sum of compensation, they would need to come back alive, they had the confidence and capability to do at least that much.
「Although Ted says that, we weren’t sure what to do at first too. Just that after we came to capital and Ardis said that he’s participating, we thought we would join as well. 」
「After all, with Ardis around, we won’t be dying any time soon. 」
Following Ted, the magician, Orphellia and the archer Norris each added on their reasons.
「Well, and also……」
Ted had a wide grin.
「We’ve been staying in the Kingdom for quite the long time already. Maybe a little patriotism budded. 」
The man with a tough looking face gave an unmercenary-like excuse.
Ardis gave a brushing off reply but, he felt a little relieved in his heart.
Ted and the others of the 『Bright Stars of White Night』 are one of the few Ardis could consider as his friends. Although it’s a mercenary’s fate in a sense to cross swords with ones they are familiar with, Ardis didn’t wish to fight against them.
「Come to think of it, is Nere not coming? 」
Norris asked about the self-titled Ardis’s servant.
「Yeah. Nere is staying behind. 」
「That’s natural, it’s not like you can leave Fillia-chan and Riana-chan in the forest by themselves right. 」
Naturally, Nere would be staying behind to look after the twins.
Furthermore, Rona’s figure is nowhere to be found beside Ardis. In the first place, it’s not like he can bring his partner that looks totally like a beast to a human’s war, Rona is on a task to look after Rupus who is still holing up inside the forest.
Rupus of the same home world with Ardis belongs to the 『Khlore』 species and holds tremendous power. There’s no worry of demonic beings in the forest. But it will be different against humans with intelligence.
If in a chance the Empire army encountered Rupus, they could harm the coward Rupus. That is why, before the war is over and peace is returned, Rona is staying by him and looking after him.
『Would’ve been all fine even if you ignored him. Al is just too caring』
While complaining, he still agreed to Ardis’s request of looking over Rupus.
「I thought Ardis wouldn’t be participating at all. It’s not like you’re troubled with money, right? 『Three Great Demon Subjugator』-san? 」
Norris asked as if teasing.
「Someone I know is participating……」
Ardis unusually had a vague tone, Norris was asking more details when another young man’s voice covered his.
「Isn’t it Ardis! 」
There were four people waving their hands as they came closer. The one taking the front is a tough looking muscle man. Behind him is a tall man with ash blonde hair, a slender man with his long hair tied up, and a petite woman with red hair. With all of them in armed equipment, they’re obviously mercenaries.
Ardis was digging in his memories after seeing their faces, and spoke of the name that he thought of.
「Ou. You remembered me! I thought I was forgotten! 」
It was a story when Ardis was still in Thoria. They were being attacked by a Despair on the grassland and was on the edge when Ardis saved them.
「Though, faces change after four years. I took some time to recall. 」
They who were novice mercenaries four years ago had changed a lot. The childishness from their faces vanished, and now exuded a confidence befitting of experienced mercenaries.
「And Ardis didn’t change at all. It was rather surprising to see little to nothing change at all. 」
Ralph, who was originally already big statured, became even bigger, and was hitting Ardis’s back and laughed.
「The rumors reached Thoria. Is it true about subjugating the 『Three Great Demons』? 」
「It’s so terrible that you left Thoria without saying anything. Isn’t it fine if you told us beforehand? 」
Jio and Konia were reminiscing of the past in this sudden reunion.
「My bad. There was no time, I left Thoria in a hurry. 」
They didn’t know the real reason why Ardis left Thoria as the news of the soldiers of Thoria storming Ardis’s house never spread. Ardis apologized while smiling a little.
「Ardis. It’s been a while. 」
And among four of them, it was the leader, Gresche who greeted him last.
「Yeah, glad to see you around. 」
Four years ago, Ardis and Gresche had a conflict in their opinions, and bid farewell a little awkwardly but, it’s not like they hate each other. Gresche who seems to have a little strange expression was probably conscious of it but, it’s a time to be rejoicing over the reunion.
If they’re here, they must’ve chosen to participate in the war on the side of the kingdom.
「Honestly, you didn’t change at all. Seriously, even though it’s impossible. 」
Gresche looked up and down at Ardis, and spoke of his honest opinions.
「And you all look much more seasoned now. Must’ve graduated from a novice huh. 」
The party of Gresche and the others had faces of experienced mercenaries. Unlike the new mercenaries they were four years ago, they showed collection and calmness in their actions.
「Ardis is so rude. Even like this, we experienced a lot after that, and was able to get our name quite well known in Thoria. Despair is no longer a threat to us. 」
「I see. 」
Certainly, they look different than the time when they would get wiped out by a single Despair. Having no one retired for four years even against dangerous beasts and demonic beings just shows that they have some abilities backing them.
「But it’s great. Ardis is on our side. It would be good that no familiar faces would be separated in faction. It’s a little sad seeing some mercenaries from Thoria siding with the Empire. 」
「……That’s what it means to be a mercenary. 」
Ardis just blurted out something suitable as Gresche’s words made him uncertain as to what to say.
After that, their party chatted with Ardis for a while before finding another group of familiar faces and moved there.
「You look like you want to say something, Ardis. 」
Ted who was beside listening to the conversation just now called out to Ardis.
「Nn? No, it’s just a little……」
「Are you worrying about 『Costas』? 」
At Norris’s question, Ardis asked the name that was unfamiliar.
「Unn. That’s their party name. They wanted to keep the name of 『Costa Village』, where they are from, and so 『Costas』. It’s a simple naming right, ahaha. 」
「Is that so. 」
Leaving aside the question that was answered, Ardis asked about Gresche’s party.
「They, how were they doing in Thoria? 」
「Unn, hmm………. They did well…… right? Ted, what do you think? 」
A little hesitant on answering, Norris passed the bat to Ted while fumbling over his words.
「They’re good guys. They are honest and don’t scheme behind other’s back. Just like what they said, they have enough strength to not be bothered about a Despair. Although there’re no bad reviews from requestors, just……」
Ted gave his comment on the party after receiving the bat from Norris, and stuck at the end.
「They are too good natured, or just naïve? 」
Beside Ted who was looking for words to describe them, Orphellia interrupted.
「Recently, they were standing out quite a lot, and naturally there are troubles. There are people who would rather leech off others than training themselves right? They are being harassed sometimes. 」
「It’s not anything rare though? 」
「Yeah, being harassed that is. 」
「I mean, we are quite a known party, but even so, there are some that would give bad reviews to obstruct us. By the way, what about Ardis? What would you do if there are people who tries to harm you by manipulating requests? 」
「It depends on what kind of harm but, I would make sure they wouldn’t do it twice. 」
Within the boundaries of law, that is. Ardis who added on just in case was laughed by Norris.
「Ahaha, yeah right! Ardis is merciless after all! 」
Ardis is not a demon after all, he wouldn’t just cut down everyone who stands in his way. But he would definitely respond if someone is meaning harm for him.
His respond depends on what kind of harm they are trying to plot but, if they are aiming for his life, he wouldn’t hesitate to take their lives.
「But Costas doesn’t do that you see. It’s obvious they’re receiving harassment all over the place but, they wouldn’t counterattack or take revenge. 」
「In any case, they look like they have enough power to cut through any kind of harassment but, it’s still a different matter. Those that do things like that, they need to taste a fist, else they would repeat their actions. 」
「Can’t live by all pretty if you’re a mercenary right. With that kind of naivety, there’s no knowing when you will trip over……」
Mercenaries can’t play the good person forever. In the first place, mercenaries are those that predates on others. Those that would take advantage and aim for another’s livelihood, those that would set trap for others aren’t rare at all.
Even if a mercenary can be a hero, they can’t be a saint. To have reached this far without stepping on a nail, Gresche’s party might be lucky, or unlucky in another sense.
They had managed to come so far somehow. But now, they’re heading where they wouldn’t be normally, an unfamiliar stage that is a war. While feeling a little unease, Ardis looked at the party of Costas.