Minerva even forgotten about the situation and stared at the sight. With the cloudy blue sky as the background, the person as if commanding the countless swords was flying in the sky.
Seeing the figure that she wanted to meet but couldn’t, her eyes became wet. He is the only teacher she aspired to, the young man named Ardis.
Although it’s impossible for her mutter to be heard, as if responding to her, Ardis’s swords moved while floating in the air. And one of them landed just in front of her eyes, and made quick work on the Imperial soldiers surrounding her.
Recalling that she is still within a battlefield, Minerva confirmed the existence of the enemies.
Quicker than she could look back down, the Imperial soldiers that were on both sides almost stabbing her were already struck down by the flying swords.
Minerva who escaped from a threat immediately tried to regain her bearings of the situation by looking around.
The damage caused to the Imperial soldiers from above worsened. The next victim was the magician that the Imperial soldiers protected behind their backs.
A surprise attack from their blind spot above, the magician ate the dirt without a chance of deploying his own barrier, before the Imperial soldiers finally realized they were getting attacked from above.
「Up there! 」
「Is that……, is he the Countless Swords Sorcerer!? 」
With many of the Imperial soldiers shaken witnessing someone flying in the air, they managed to identify Ardis because of the many flying swords.
However, most of them died the next moment. The responses they got was only a merciless rain of swords from above.
The flying swords by Ardis stabbed into the Imperial soldiers.
「What Countless Swords! These things, they are not much different from mere arrows! 」
Most of the Imperial soldiers were stabbed in an instant, but there were also those that had quick reactions, successfully deflecting a flying sword. However, it is also futile.
Ardis’s flying swords are not simple-minded projectile. Manipulated by mana, they are the close quarters weapons as if held by invisible hands.
Leaving aside arrows or spears that are thrown normally, the flying swords can strike a second time even if they missed.
After deflected, the flying swords continued aiming for the enemies’ necks. Stabbing, slashing, pushing, the flying swords cornered the soldiers, and eventually robbed their lives with swordsmanship.
The final resisting Imperial soldiers were then stabbed in his chest, and fallen on the ground. The surrounding silence visited Minerva and the others, decorated with many unmoving corpses on the ground.
Seeing that eighty more Imperial soldiers getting trampled from above, Ardis finally landed on the ground. And beside him was the golden beast, Rona, as the surprise and awe that Minerva felt was replaced by nostalgia and joy.
「Thanks for the save. 」
It was Moore that voiced out first to Ardis.
「Long time no see. Minerva too, I’m glad that you’re doing well. Swordsmanship, seems like you didn’t stop practicing. 」
Responding simply to Moore, Ardis turned around and said so to Minerva with a kind face. Beside Moore who didn’t look very much impressed, Minerva’s cheeks loosened.
But apart from the joy of reuniting after two years, the sadness and anger that had been smoldering thus far rekindled.
Without even thanking for his help, her first words that came out were questioning him.
「Why, why did you leave without saying anything. 」
She was happy to see him again. She was thankful that he saved them. Even though she understood so logically, her words were still full of anger.
「Even just a word……my feelings of not being able to bid farewell, to Shishou…… 」
「Ah――, that’s…… my bad. Sorry. 」
Seeing Minerva who was on the verge of crying, Ardis seemed apologetic. Originally, there’s no need for Ardis to be apologizing.
Minerva knew that he had done so in order for the church to not further involve herself. Even so, the reason why her emotions won against her reasoning is probably because of her goodwill to Ardis.
「…………Sorry for my childishness. Please forget it. 」
Minerva that realized so immediately regained herself, and refaced Ardis.
「Saving us in a dangerous spot, I can’t thank you enough. Rona too, thank you. 」
「I didn’t even do anything this time. Well, Al and I will protect Minerva so, rest easy. 」
Instead of replying, Minerva stroked Rona’s back. The sensation for the first time in two years calmed her down.
「I’m sure there’s a lot more to talk but, shall we get moving first? New enemies might come. 」
It was Moore that interrupted the two. For him who is being an escort, it’s natural to think to get some distance from this dangerous place as soon as possible.
「Yeah, sounds good. 」
Ardis agreed so without any impatience. Even if there’re more pursuers, he has the confidence to deal with them like he did just now.
「Then let’s move to regroup with the others first, we’re heading to the Duke’s territory. Cain needs immediate treatment, and Ojou-sama is also injured. 」
「Did you get hurt somewhere? 」
Minerva’s expression became gloomy at Ardis’s question and answered.
「It’s not that serious. Rather, Cain-san is more……」
Following Minerva’s gaze, Ardis saw the severely injured escort, before taking out a high-grade medicine from somewhere.
「If he’s still breathing, then use this. 」
「High-grade medicine! Thanks! 」
As if handed over a life-saving boat, Moore immediately took the high-grade medicine, and opened its seal before pouring them over Cain’s burnt back. As expected of the high-grade medicine, Cain’s wounds were healing at a visible rate.
「Here, Minerva too. 」
「No, I’m fine. 」
「It’s not a time to be saving now right? 」
Using the high-grade medicine that was handed over forcefully, Minerva was finally released from the pain in her shoulders.
While doing that, Moore and the others managed to gather three horses that were spared in the fight.
「We don’t have enough horses……. Endory, ride together with Cain. Ojou-sama can be with me, and Ardis…… Jake’s horse? 」
「Don’t mind me. I can catch up anyhow.」
「How…… wait, I don’t have to ask that huh. 」
After all, Moore and the others like Minerva saw Ardis flying in the sky after all. Ardis has no need for a horse, the reason behind that was easily imaginable.
Minerva and the others occupied the three horses and headed west. Ardis and Rona are flying in the sky chasing after the horses.
「I thought it was already ridiculous enough but, this flying ridiculousness is……」
Moore who was riding on the same horse as Minerva looked up at Ardis with a half given up face.
「Is that thanks to the foothold or something? 」
Minerva’s eyes could see a haze below Ardis and Rona supporting them, and also two hazes that pushed their back.
As if realizing something Ardis dropped his altitude and matched his speed beside the horse. The intense winds that blew from the ground roughed up Minerva and Moore’s hair.
「Something is coming our way. Probably a horse. 」
Moore’s eyebrows rose. Of course, it couldn’t be a random wild horse that’s running on its own.
If so, then there should be someone riding it, and if someone is riding it, it could only mean something bad happened. Eventually, Minerva’s eyes could see the horse ahead as well.
「That’s……, the escort for the refugees right? 」
Confirming the appearance, Moore judged that it’s one of his subordinates of the guards. As they got close enough to each other, Moore stopped the horse as the opposite side did as well.
「What happened? 」
「T-The territory……! 」
Responding to Moore’s question, the guard yelled out with ragged breath.
「The territory, it was attacked by the Imperial army in surprise, and has fallen! 」
Moore’s voice showed his confused emotions. The guard that came as a messenger started explaining what had happened after they took a different route than Minerva and the others.
There were about ten guards or so that were tasked with escorting the refugees and guiding them. While watching out for attacks from beasts and bandits, the group headed forward, but encountered another group of people from the front.
The group they encountered wasn’t an army. They were the same as the refugees they were protecting, a group of normal citizens.
Although there were some that carried large baggage, most of them only had their clothes on them, so they were basically same as the refugees from the capital.
Asking what happened, it was then known that the Duke’s territory was attacked by soldiers donning the Empire’s flag like the capital, and the guards were annihilated without putting up a proper defense.
And the citizens escaping from the territory encountered the refugees from the capital.
To ascertain the truth of that statement, they sent one man to scout ahead, and it was then determined the territory had already fallen, as the Empire’s flag was seen risen.
If their original destination had been occupied by the Empire, then they can’t possibly advance now. Grouping with the refugees that came from the territory, they had no choice but to turn around.
「What a cruel joke……」
Even Moore didn’t look good. As for Minerva, her face was green without words.
However, they can’t possibly mull over it forever. For now, they advanced in haste, and regrouped with the refugees.
After that, they moved out of the highway, and gathered the refugees while praying that there’re no pursuers. Together with Ardis, they discussed their further plans.
「To think that the Empire had already reached to the territory. 」
Moore sighed deeply. As expected from the former mercenary that had trained over many battlefields, he had already stood back up from the shock.
「Are the others at home safe……」
「Rather than that, Ojou-sama safety is foremost now. Now that the capital and the Duke’s territory had fallen, the Kingdom is already……」
Minerva was worrying about the people in the mansion of the territory but, Moore indicated that it is not a time to be talking about that. Losing their destination after so far, it was too unexpected.
The north is under Lord Thoria’s control, and the east is the capital occupied by the Empire. The territories of other nobles beyond the capital would’ve probably been occupied by the Empire as well.
If even the west that is the last remaining choice is now occupied by the Empire, there’s no longer a place in the Kingdom.
「Should we escape to the Coalition? 」
「With these many refugees? That’s not gonna happen. Leaving aside going there on horses with just a few people, no chance the Empire would leave this many people going alone. 」
Endory’s suggestion was thrown out the window by Moore. The refugees that are carrying their own luggage moved slowly.
If they moved slowly on the highway, it’s unavoidable they will catch the Empire’s eyes, but still, it’s not like they can avoid the highway and use dangerous paths. In the situation that there’re not even twenty escorts, it’s impossible to protect all the refugees.
It might be possible to escape without the Empire noticing with horses and abandoning the refugees but, naturally, Minerva didn’t consider it a choice.
However, there was no better alternative, as a heavy atmosphere pushed down on them. And there, it was Ardis that threw a stone.
「What about…… the north? 」