It was a sudden pain that woke Ardis from his fuzzy consciousness. Rather than physical pain on his body, it was more like a shapeless pain that ripped apart his soul.
It felt like something was pulled out of himself. It’s the same sense of displeasure when he was sent back into that world few days ago.
Although the sensation was same, he was terribly anxious feeling something was lost after being pulled out from himself.
(What……? No, it’s natural huh……)
After acknowledging something was lost from deep inside himself, along with a sense of lost, Ardis was also strangely convinced. There’s no concrete reasoning behind his thoughts of getting convinced.
Rather than a concrete reason, it was what he thought would’ve happened considering what happened. After the sense of something lost thinned out, his consciousness became afloat again.
It was Minerva’s voice that woke up Ardis who was completely in a deep sleep.
「――Please! Shishou! 」
The voice pulled Ardis along and woke him up. The smell of the wet forest was intense. The warm sunshine was poking through his eyelids.
Ardis felt the small hand that shook his body while he was waking up. It was his pupil’s voice that he could hear.
「Shishou! Are you alright, Shishou! 」
Ardis who opened his eyes found Minerva’s face in his limited vision.
The iris-colored pupils were worriedly looking at him.
「Y-Yeah……. I’m fine. 」
Ardis waved his hand and answered, while he tried to stand up, he unconsciously scanned the surroundings with mana. Seeing that there’re no threats around, he was relieved for the time being.
Although still a little shaky, Ardis managed to stand up, then he heard a sleepy voice with yawn.
「You were taking quite the nap, Al. I waited so long I’m bored. 」
His closest partner didn’t even express any concern for Ardis, but rather displeased with him. It was Minerva who he knew less who showed more concern for him.
「Are you still feeling unwell? Should we rest for a little longer? 」
「Sorry, did I worry you? Well, I can’t say that I’m at my best but, it’s not anything serious, I’m fine. 」
「Oi oi, are you really okay? Just as we saw you arriving here, then you passed out. And that appearance…… 」
Moore showed concern at Ardis, then his voice trailed off at the end.
「That……, Shishou, you look……」
Ardis felt a little confused, and asked Minerva, but the person herself seemed a little stuck on words as well.
「Al, your body regressed to a child again. 」
Then there was his partner that thrusted the truth without mercy to his face.
「Just as I thought you turned back to normal, and here you are small again. 」
「Rona, that saying is a little……」
It seems like Minerva is concerned with how Rona said it, but Rona himself of course paid no mind.
「No, it’s okay. You don’t have to be concerned with that. 」
Ardis said so while looking and verifying his own limbs. The three swords at his waist, 『Skies of Myriad Colors』, 『Springtime Mist』 and 『Moon’s Blizzard』 helped him to immediately recognize what state he is in.
Ardis understood that something happened to his body again, and even if they worried, nothing will change.
Rather than that, there’s something they should do right now.
「So, the problem is where exactly are we at……」
「We already found out about that a little while back. It didn’t seem dangerous just now, so I scouted around. Since Al didn’t come through for quite a long while. 」
Rona still seemed a little peeved, and Ardis of course knew why. Ardis who was hesitating in front of the mirror for not more than a minute must’ve been quite a long time for them .
「So, what’s next? 」
「We can see Minerva’s house if we cross that small hill. It’s quite near, about thirty minutes walking, and we will arrive. 」
「Well, that’s certainly closer than expected……」
It’s something worth celebrating. Minerva seemed confident but, there was still a chance that it’s a different world, and even if it’s the right one, they might be sent totally far away from their destination.
But it turned out to be connected to the right one, and the destination they’re heading to is just a little ways away.
Rather, it is quite a fortunate result.
「Well, since Al is awake now, let’s go. 」
「We can finally return now. 」
Having Rona said so, Minerva seemed happy as the reality sank in.
Although it was only a day, they had spent it in a place that had no proper food or a safe sleeping place. Minerva who had lived a noble life without any inconvenience would’ve certainly felt that it was long.
Moore’s expression also loosened up.
Although it’s a normal thing for him as a former mercenary to camp in the wilderness, as expected, travelling in a world that he can’t return from and has too powerful foes that he can’t do anything against is really taxing.
Following Rona who is at the front of the group, Minerva and Moore had light footsteps.
On the other hand, the last one of the party, Ardis had a gloomy expression and muttered.
「How will I have to explain it to them……」
If Ardis’s calculation is correct, then a year had already gone by in this world.
In other words, as far as the residents of this world are concerned, Ardis and the others had disappeared for a whole entire year without any clues.
Being able to return here doesn’t mean everything is solved. And just as expected, Ardis and the others who had arrived at the mansion were pointed at with weapons.
Moore who only looks like a rough warrior. Ardis who has sharp eyes despite looking young, and a young girl, Minerva who is equipping a short sword at her waist. Furthermore, there’s Rona, a golden beast that looks like a predator a meter long, of course they would be on guard.
Although the figure of their party would be the main reason, the worst thing is that the soldiers guarding the gate didn’t even recognize Minerva.
Just as the tense atmosphere continued between the party and the private soldiers, an old servant that passed by recognized Minerva and was able to make peace.
And then the news of Minerva who was missing for an entire year returning overturning the entire duke residency.
Everything after that is a huge mess. Just as Ardis expected, a year had already passed in this world.
The touching scene where the Duke rushed back to the residency after receiving news of the return of his daughter――that was what was supposed to happen but, Minerva herself had only spent a day apart from his father after all.
As opposed to the duke who was so moved that he is in tears, Minerva is in a different sense of confusion.
After that, Ardis and Moore stayed the night in the duke residency, and were summoned by the Duke on the next day.
Ardis wanted to return to the forest as soon as possible to not worry the people waiting for him but, since the situation is like this, he couldn’t easily gloss it over either.
「Yo, did you sleep well? 」
A voice was heard from behind Ardis who was following after a servant. Looking behind and seeing the owner of the voice, he turned back to the front and replied.
「So so. 」
「You’re going to His Excellency as well? 」
Moore walked up to Ardis’s side and asked.
「Yeah. You too? 」
Seeing them walking in the same direction in the same timing, Ardis could easily tell.
「Well, yeah. It’s natural he would want to listen from the core people related in the incident, but the problem is whether he will believe it or not. Depending on it, we might not be able to get out of the residency for quite a while. 」
Moore sighed with a complicated face. Ardis also furrowed his brows.
「Well, a day or two won’t make much difference at this point but, being restricted for a long period will be problematic. 」
「Since we weren’t thrown into a jail or anything immediately, wouldn’t Ojou-sama already explained what happened properly? They didn’t treat us badly last night, and also I don’t think we were held forcibly in the house. 」
From the Duke’s perspective, Ardis and Moore had gone missing together with his daughter for a year and reappeared.
For anyone who isn’t insightful enough, they might’ve thought Ardis and Moore are the reason, or maybe even the culprit of the incident.
Though, a Duke being that uninsightful probably isn’t possible but, a person’s thoughts and standings can change rapidly.
What kind of judgement will the current Duke hand down, Ardis didn’t have any ways of knowing.
「I want to return home quickly too. Well, if it’s going to take long, Rona can go back first……」
Rona in question is beside Minerva currently. A year had already passed in this world, but the person herself had only experienced the raid incident yesterday.
Rona is tagging along her for the time being considering her mental state and to prepare for any unforeseen situations.
And in the first place, even if Rona tagged along them, he won’t be able to speak in front of the Duke.
If so, then it’s better if he serves as an escort for Minerva. While thinking like that, Ardis and Rona eventually arrived at a grandiose door.
「Master. I’ve brought the two here. 」
「Come in. 」
Waiting for a response from inside, the servant opened the door.
Ardis who was prompted to enter the room saw Duke Nyrestia sitting opposite of him behind an office desk. There’re also escorts on his both sides, it’s natural considering what had happened.
After Ardis and Moore made it to the front of the desk, after a breath, the Duke started talking.
「Did you two have a good rest? 」
「Of course. There’s a comfortable bed prepared for us after all. 」
Moore was strangely nervous as he said so.
「That’s good to hear. Then let’s get into it quickly. I don’t really have the mood to waste time for any prelude, you see. 」
Duke had an rare impatient expression unlike a noble.
「What I want to hear, I don’t have to explain it now right? 」
「That’s, of course. 」
「I heard a little from my daughter last night already but, there wasn’t much time then. And the content was too absurd that believing it easily is impossible. 」
Although they didn’t know how much he’d heard from Minerva, a normal person probably wouldn’t believe what they have experienced and probably would just dismiss it as a bad joke.
「What happened in the incident a year ago. And where did my daughter and you two went missing for a year. Why was there not even a news from you two. I hope you can provide a good answer that can convince me. 」
Duke Nyrestia who had the same iris colored pupils as Minerva narrowed his eyes.
It was a unique pressure, only owned by someone who didn’t walk the path of physical power but political power.
「I’m not sure making it believable is possible but, the events happened on that day and what happened after will be explained thoroughly. Though, I’m not completely in the clear about everything too――」
Moore started his story so, and narrated what happened during the night when the residency was raided, and what happened after that, while leaving behind two points.
What Moore didn’t reveal to the Duke was that 『The other world is where Ardis came from』, and also 『Rona is able to understand and converse in human language』.
After all, getting transferred into another world is already an absurd story, another absurd story of Ardis originating from that world would just make the whole thing more confusing.
Not only will he get confused, they would also be suspected unneededly, it’s easy to imagine that a bad kind of attention will be put on them.
The fact that Rona can speak human language is the same.
He’s still being recognized as 『Just a big beast that is reared by a mercenary』, but if people knew that it can speak, only troubles will arise.
Because of that, Ardis had arranged in prior to exclude those two points with Moore and Minerva.
「――And thanks to that, we can finally find a way back. The entire thing was only a day for us……」
Moore ended the explanation that he himself isn’t sure of.
「Fumu……, it’s an unbelievable story but……」
The Duke had an inexplicable expression and muttered.
It’s natural. After all, someone who can outright believe an absurd story like this is the strange one.
「But, Ardis involvement in this case is a little strange? During the incident, I was sure you wasn’t in the scene? 」
Of course, the next suspect would be Ardis. Although he served as a tutor to Minerva, it’s not like he gained full trust from the Duke.
「That itself is something I don’t know either. During then, I was in the streets but, then suddenly I felt dizzy and then passed out, the next thing I knew, I came to an unknown land together with Minerva-jou and Commander Moore. 」
Although Ardis has his own inference, it’s not like he’s convicted on it. And judging that there’s no point speaking about it now, he just replied vaguely.
「What a troublesome matter. 」
Although his vague explanation might become a reason for being suspected, it seems like it was safe.
The Duke sighed grandly and laid back on his chair.
「It’s an unbelievable story, I would’ve too not believed it if not for my daughter’s appearance. 」
Not understanding his meaning, Moore questioned.
「You might not know since you’re a single child but, a child like her age will quickly grow. She would’ve grown a lot in just a year. But how is it? Her appearance is nothing different from a year before. Well, a grown adult might be different, but she is still twelve years old, going without a change in a year is normally impossible. 」
「Ah―, I see. 」
Certainly, someone like Moore probably wouldn’t change much even a year had passed, but Minerva is still at an age where growth is prime.
And being a member of a duke family, new clothes will have to custom tailored for her growth, but considering that she can fit in all her clothes from a year ago, it was obvious for the Duke that there wasn’t any growth.
Even Ardis didn’t think that Minerva herself will be the best proof. At the same time, what the Duke said made him felt cold sweat.
「Though, believing what you all said is still…… a little difficult, but there’s no choice but to believe something supernatural had happened, I have no intentions to blame you on that. Just, there’re things we found out in a year of investigations but, there’re also many things that we haven’t. I suppose you two will not mind partaking in any investigations in the future? 」
In this situation, they couldn’t possibly refuse it, and in the first place they have no reason to refuse it.
For Ardis, he might gain some clues about the other world thanks to their investigations as well, so he wanted to get as much information regarding this incident.
「Of course. 」
Moore replied immediately to the Duke’s request of cooperation, and on the other hand Ardis nodded wordlessly as well.
Seeing their reply, the Duke’s hard face finally collapsed.
「In any case, I’m happy my daughter have returned. I have to give my thanks to you two, good work guarding her. 」
「No, it was the mission I accepted in the first place, it’s just a part of it. 」
「As for me……………, well, she’s a precious pupil. 」
Ardis managed to squeeze that out after a short while of silence. It probably looked like he was finding a suitable excuse in the Duke’s eyes.
As the official business is over, the Duke changed to a gentle face of a father towards Ardis.
「It seems like my daughter is blessed to have such a tutor like you. I will depend on you in the future too. 」