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Ardis returned from the battlefield saw off Kyrill and the other students, after passing the message of his safety to the house in the forest, he headed deeper into the forest. It was to welcome Rona who was looking after Rupus living in the forest to avoid human eyes.
Although it seems like the flames of war didn’t reach there, he managed to get a piece of interesting information. Rona who had nothing better to do found a group likely to be Imperial soldiers venturing in the forest and overheard their conversation.
A week later, Ardis and Rona can be found in the capital of Nagras Kingdom, Gran. Entering a tavern standing in the entertainment district of the capital, Ardis finally found the person he was looking for.
「Unlike the result of sixty percent of our army not returning, as expected of you to return without a single scratch, I must say. 」
A kind looking man with glossy brown hair who had his hands on the counter sent irony praises towards Ardis.
「So, what do you need from me? I’m quite busy right now. I have an appointment later so make it short. 」
It is the man working as an information broker. In the period when the destruction of Kingdom can happen anytime, there’s no way he has nothing to do.
Now that the reason behind the Empire retreating is still not determined in the capital, there’re many people seeking refuge in other countries in fear of the invasion, and the capital’s population had thinned considerably.
The information brokers in the capital are probably gathering as much information as they can without rest now. But considering the reason is still unknown now, it might just mean the information gathering abilities of the Kingdom are really lacking, or the Empire is really good at warding against spies, though it isn’t easy to tell which.
「Well, don’t be so cold, Chezare. I even brought some shocking information for you to enjoy after all. 」
The information broker whose name is Chezare narrowed his eyes.
「I will say it first but, any stories about a black haired monster causing the enemy right wing to retreat on his own, or something like the 『Countless Swords Sorcerer』 winning against a thousand cavalries riding on peculiar beasts, those are already stale. 」
The value of information depends on its freshness. As expected from him.
「Nah, not those. 」
「Then what is it? I’m busy as well, so please get to the point. 」
I want to quickly leave. Chezare had such an aura oozing out of his body as he hushed.
「The reason why the Empire retreated their army. 」
Chezare’s cheeks twitched at Ardis’s short words, and his eyes changed colors.
「How much will you pay for it? 」
Chezare sent a silent gaze towards Ardis, and took a seat at the counter. Continue, it would seem. Ardis took a seat beside, and ordered two portions of fruit juice from the owner.
「Didn’t you say you have an appointment? 」
Is it fine? Ardis who implied that was replied by the information broker with a sigh.
「If it’s going to take time, then I will have someone go in my place. First thing’s first, the bill on the juice depends on what information you bring. 」
The owner of the tavern put out two portions of fruit juice on the counter and left. Ardis who verified that with a side glance started talking.
「There were Imperial soldiers that went into the forest to hunt fleeing Kingdom soldiers. And when they retreated, I had an ear in what the officer-like cavalry said then. 」
「So you mean you didn’t hear it yourself? 」
「Yeah, but it’s from a credible source. 」
After declaring, Ardis sent a gaze towards his feet. There was the figure of a golden beast with an expression of 『Hmph, of course』.
「And then, for the past few days, I went to the Empire to gather some information on my own. 」
「So it’s something that will either be laughed off by a state spy of our own, or make him angrily stomp the ground in frustration huh. 」
Chezare had an inexplicable expression on his face. Although Ardis makes it sounds easy, if it was really that easy, the upper echelons of the Kingdom wouldn’t be so busy trying to gather information.
「In conclusion, the Empire won’t invade for the time being. And the cavalry unit that rode on the strange beasts is also――」
「Sorry but it’s charged here on. So, how much? 」
Chezare who cringed his face glared at Ardis hatefully.
「Three gold coins. 」
「Oi oi, don’t be joking. I even went out on a dangerous expedition to the Imperial capital just to gather information. I would settle for about ten. 」
「Bastard, you aren’t troubled with money right? 」
「It’s a different matter. Right, I’m not troubled with money, but that doesn’t mean I should sell my information underpriced unrightfully right? 」
Without changing his reluctant face, Chezare put out a correction to the price.
「If you’re only selling to me, I will consider it a little. Five gold coins. 」
「With that much, I’m afraid I will have to look for other information brokers. Eight. 」
「Do you think the others would believe you? People who don’t realize your ability will think that you’re spouting lies. Six. 」
「It might be nonsense if coming from a common mercenary, but it’s brought by the 『Countless Swords Sorcerer』, you know? I think that name has quite the trust behind it though? Seven. 」
「It’s not like our intelligence gathering is useless. It’s about time our chaos settles down, and some real information comes in. It’s possible that your information suddenly diminishes in value after I get it. Six gold and five silvers, no more than this. 」
「Is that so, then I have no choice but to bring this somewhere else. I think this might go down to about one gold in value in a few days. 」
Chezare’s face cringed more and his words stuck.
Well then, Ardis who said so and stood up was held back by the information broker.
「W-Wait a minute! 」
「What is it? I’m on the way to get myself a pocket change of seven gold now. 」
「……I got it. I will buy it, seven gold coin it is! 」
With a voice of despair, Chezare dumped out seven gold coins from his pocket on the counter.
「Then it’s a deal huh. 」
With a satisfied smile, Ardis took his seat back, and retrieved the gold coins put on the counter.
「Really a hard person to handle, you. 」
「That’s a praise for me in my opinion. 」
「Oh I see. Then quickly start explaining, will you? I intend to retrieve back my expenses tonight. ……Ah, wait a minute. 」
Chezare interrupted saying so and called the owner over, and handed over several copper coins. He probably asked the owner to pass on the message to the person he was supposed to meet.
「Now then, will you tell me about it in detail. 」
「Yeah. I will do at least seven gold worth. 」
Saying so to Chezare who returned, Ardis started slowly describing what he had saw and heard himself in the Imperial capital. The fact that the Imperial army unit that had the most nobles in it had the most casualties.
And among them is the sole successor of the leader of a big faction, Duke Tangram. Starting from the death of Duke Tangram’s son, there were many other nobles who experienced the same thing starting to have doubts about the Emperor and the royalties, as a result, the royal family’s foundation was shook.
On top of that, the southern continent’s reinforcements lost about one third of their entire force, as their commander had died in the battlefield, their support for the Empire had disappeared gradually.
「I see. If that’s the case, then they really won’t have the time for any invasion. It’s on the verge of a civil war there. I even feel some sympathy for the Empire that had won so overwhelmingly but decided to retreat before getting the result and now it’s all in vain――」
「And thanks to that, the Kingdom was able to keep its life. 」
As if to complement Chezare’s thoughts, Ardis continued his narration on the current situation.
「Then that means an invasion from the Empire will be a story in the future. Half year if they can quickly suppress complaints from their nobles. If not, a civil war will break out and it’ll take them several years. But……」
「In the end, the reason is because of the successor of Duke Tangram, and the flying horse calvary unit? The commander that came from the southern continent was killed right? 」
「What about it? 」
「No no, what I mean is, in the end――」
With a stupefied look, Chezare said so.
「――you are the culprit of everything. 」
「What culprit, don’t put it that way, at least say it’s my contribution. 」
「Contribution? Certainly, it’ll be your contribution if this news gets out. I’m sure the value of your information that had already risen for the past few days will continue rising. 」
「What’s about that? 」
「You……. Do you not realize what have you done at all? 」
Chezare didn’t bother holding his sigh in.
「The sword magic user that had subjugated the Three Great Demons residing in the Kingdom for many years. That much alone already attracts quite a lot of attention, now adding on repelling the entire Imperial army on your own right? 」
「That’s over exaggerating. Even if it’s me, I can’t make an entire army retreat. 」
「I know that well. 『Countless Swords Sorcerer』 is something people pinned on you as they like. Although the things I’ve heard is too unrealistic that it feels like the story had been added on with frills and ribbons, it’s all the truth. 」
Leaving aside Chezare who had a strange tired face, Ardis left the tavern.
Buying some souvenirs for the twins from the streets, while being showered by the sunshine, Ardis and Rona entered the forest.
「Being called Countless Swords Sorcerer, how cool, Al. 」
「Is that so? I mean, it does sounds intimidating for bluffing purposes. 」
「But then again, you’re really a 『Magician』 everywhere, Al. 」
「……It’s so. It’ll be a pain to have dealt with them one by one with the sword after all. Either way, with a better fame, less people will mess with me. 」
Ardis wasn’t unhappy at his name being known. The more Ardis’s strength is known, the lesser reckless opponents he would have to deal with. With that much fame, even Sir Thoria wouldn’t be able to easily mess with him now.
Of course, considering Sir Thoria is someone with immense political power, it’s possible that he can manipulate something behind the scenes. That’s why he wouldn’t be careless.
Another problem after that.
Certainly, less trouble will find its way to him. But on the other hand, he also thought that he might’ve been collecting too much hatred this time. As the price of quelling a small number of enemies, an entire army would become his enemy.
Those that are related to the nobles that Ardis had killed in the war certainly holds a grudge against him.
At that, it was Ted who had a stupefied look, 「Making more enemies again」, Norris who laughed seemingly enjoying it, and Orphellia who makes a face as she couldn’t care more.
「Well, nothing I can do now. 」
「Nn? About what? 」
「It’s nothing. 」
「Welcome back, Ardis! Rona! 」
It was the twins waiting for Ardis and Rona’s return with brimming smile in the house inside the forest. With a perfect timing, the two’s voice overlapped, and leapt into Ardis.
「I’m back, Fillia, Riana. 」
Ardis patted the platinum blonde hair in order. Their hair became a mess quickly but they both were laughing as if tickled.
「I am happy for your safe return. My master. 」
「Yeah. Good work for looking after the house. Was there anything when I was gone? 」
Nere who served as the bodyguard of the twins came later. Her quiet self while exuding an aura of nobility nodded.
「Umu. There was no particular concern. It was too uneventful that the two had nothing to do――」
「Ardis, I made a pillow with Riana! 」
「We made it! 」
Ardis’s head tilted at the unexpected noun.
「Unn, a pillow for napping use! 」
「We made one for Ardis too! 」
「I will go take it! 」
「Ardis’s too! 」
Without waiting for Ardis’s reply, the two ran around the house.
「They had nothing to do and tried to spend some time at sewing. They thought to make something and came up with making a pillow for my master’s afternoon naps. Isn’t it magnificent for their first product? 」
Was it funny? Nere who doesn’t really show emotions on her face had a small smile. And there, the twins were seen carrying three pillows in their arms.
「Ardis! We brought it already here! 」
「Let’s nap! 」
Fillia’s hands had two small pillows. Riana’s hands had a much bigger one. It would indicate the small ones are for the twins, and the bigger one is for Ardis.
「This is Ardis’s! 」
Riana put out the bigger pillow towards Ardis.
It was made with a grassy green color cloth, and the poor sewing can be seen. The sewing lines were all over the place, and the overall shape is distorted somewhat.
There were some places where it was not sewn properly and the stuffing inside peeking out, and also ends of threads that were not tied up properly that can be seen protruding. Even a cheap inn that only takes three copper a night had better pillow.
But what about it. If anyone dared to laugh at it, Ardis would send them a kick no matter who is it.
「Thank you, Riana. Fillia too. 」
Having handed it over to Ardis, Riana squirmed shyly.
「Well, the weather is nice, I guess a nap now would be good. 」
The sun had only passed overhead a little, there’re still much time before the sun sets. Ardis together with the twins moved to a shade under the tree in the garden, undone his travelling equipment and put down the pillow and laid on the ground.
「Fillia takes the right―! 」
「Then Riana takes the left―! 」
The twins chose their spot beside Ardis and started sleeping.
And there was Rona near his feet letting out a huge yawn.
The wind brushed by his cheeks. The strong sunlight was blocked by the leaves and branches, the sound of shaking leaves became lullaby.
「My master. Won’t you unequip your sword? It’ll hit the wins if you turn around. 」
「Nn, oh……that’s right. 」
Ardis who was about to enter dreamland raised himself.
Taking off the sword that was tied to his waist, he felt something was pulling at his clothes.
It was Fillia who was clutching Ardis’s sleeves. On the other side, Riana was doing the same to his clothes.
「Nn? Sleep talking? 」
The two were sleeping in peace. They had already journeyed into the dreamland in advance. While having his clothes tugged by two sides, Ardis brushed their head.
Then a happy smile came. Seeing that, Ardis naturally smiled as well.
The war between the Kingdom and the Empire had ended with no clear winner. The Kingdom were beaten to tatters, but was spared from the fate of destruction, but with the Empire thoroughly cleaning the remains of soldiers from the Kingdom, they had a huge advantage in the next war.
But for the two sides, the things they had lost were more than they had gained.
Many who participated in the war lost many things too. Those that lost their limbs, those that lost their reputation, those that lost their comrades, and those that lost their lives.
And what they gained was money and fame that could never compare to what was lost.
Even Ardis himself, having gained the title of 『Countless Swords Sorcerer』 in exchange of many of the enemies’ lives, but how much is that title worth actually.
Leaving that aside, Ardis thought.
In the end, Ardis’s action had protected the Kingdom. Ted, Norris, and Orphellia were all fine. His purpose for joining the war to protect Kyrill was fulfilled as well.
But what mattered most to Ardis were the sleeping face of the two creatures beside him, Ardis realized anew.
How long has it been that he felt so protective to something? Things that he wanted to protect, things that he must protect, and things that he couldn’t protect.
Suppressing the emotions that almost flowed out, Ardis patted at the things that he should protect now.
I won’t fail this time.
If it means to protect these children――.
「A country or two, come at me. 」
Ardis declared so to no one.