「Also, Al is now somehow, uhm……. How should I say it? Vague? It feels like that. 」
「I can’t describe it well but, it’s like your presence isn’t clear, or became vague……. Well, leaving that aside. 」
It’s not something to be simply pushed away but, there’s something else more important to be discussed now. Ardis who understood that agreed.
「But you see, that Al said that the last time he met me――after going for the crazy woman, a year and half had passed. It’s absurd right? 」
Absurd or not, in the first place, Ardis already have troubles believing that Rona met 『A younger version of Ardis』. It felt like his identity was slowly crumbling away.
「The Al over there――since it’s annoying, we will just call him young Al, was taking care of a pair of female twins together with another person, Nere. The twins’ names are Fillia and Riana, you said you don’t have any recollections, right? 」
「None……, it should be. 」
Just as he heard the names, it felt like two young children with platinum blonde hair was running towards him flashed in his mind. Ardis felt a little soothed in his heart suffering in pain, but he was also confused at that emotion that he had never felt before.
「Then, the young Al――」
Rona continued the narration of the Ardis that Ardis didn’t know. As if fallen into an unknown world and lost in it, Ardis continue listening without saying anything.
Rona said, it is a different world than the one they are in. Rona who insisted it is a 『Different world』 narrated the encounter with the Khlore race, the four years that the young Al spent travelling around, then the war with the neighbor country, and then finally the reason why they are here.
「That girl is the pupil? 」
「That’s right. He wasn’t really up for it at first but, in the end, he accepted it, nonetheless. And it was young Al who asked me to protect Minerva. 」
And then, after getting assaulted by some people, they were transported here, Ardis who heard that had an indescribable expression. It’s natural, considering that someone that has the same name as himself was planning something and did something together with Rona in somewhere he didn’t know.
Even though he was still skeptical at all of Rona’s explanation, it’s not something he felt he should pursue now. Ardis decided to postpone the problem for later and prioritize on reaching a human settlement as soon as possible.
But even so, the appearance of the two that didn’t conform to his common sense still somehow irritated him.
「Don’t eat it if you don’t want to. No one forced you to eat anyways. 」
Ardis said so coldly to the man who spat the Nedulo meat out.
「If you choose to starve, then so be it, if you have something else, then just eat that. There’s no one stopping you. 」
As for the girl that muttered something with a dark expression after hearing Rona’s words, he wasn’t considerate either.
Certainly, even himself wouldn’t want to eat Nedulo meat if it’s not a situation like this. But now is undoubtedly a situation like that, people who is familiar with camping in the wild would endure and understand it. That’s how it should be living outside a town.
The actions of the man and the girl was obviously indicating they are people unknown to the world outside of a town. Having a warm bed to sleep in a safe town, having choices for their food, having lived their life without any danger to their life, it’s the difference of lifestyle he can’t say anything about.
Normally, he would’ve dismissed them as people from a different standpoint, but the current Ardis couldn’t. The emotions and impatience that seemed to explode if he wasn’t careful was suppressed desperately by his reasoning. Though, Ardis wasn’t such an upstanding human that he can do that and be considerate of others at the same time.
Finishing the painful meal that is just for the sake of filling their stomach, the group is going to sleep.
「Night watch? Why bother about something like that, just handle them if they come your way. 」
He answered to the man that suggested to have night watch in order rudely, while having an expression like it is an obvious thing.
Waking up as soon as sensing hostility to oneself. It isn’t anything special that only Ardis can do, it’s an essential skill that anyone would need living in the wilderness.
In other words, people who can’t do that will die early. It’s a rule of this world.
On top of that, there’s Rona whose senses are even sharper than Ardis. It’s probably impossible for any normal beasts to take them by surprise.
「It’s fine. Minerva will be safe beside me. No problem even if you slept soundly till morning. 」
Since Rona had volunteered to look after the surroundings, Ardis thought there’s no need for him to worry about it any longer and proceeded to lie on the ground.
It was about the time when the stars in the night sky is still visible that Ardis woke up from his light sleep. The hostility that was directed towards him surfaced his consciousness.
(A crawling worm huh.)
After noticing the presence and opening his eyes, he drew the sword from the scabbard beside him.
Ardis looked around and found the man awake similarly holding a sword. It seems like he can at least do that much.
As for the girl――.
(Still sleeping now huh……)
She was still sleeping soundly while lying against Rona.
And of course, Rona had noticed the approaching threat as well. Although he didn’t seem like he was getting up, the golden tail was waving in the air. It seems like he was staying still to not wake the girl, in other words, it’s up to Ardis to dispose of the worm.
While enduring to sigh and click his tongue, Ardis approached the girl.
「Something is not right……. A beast? 」
It seems like the man had realized something amiss, but couldn’t pinpoint the cause. His gaze was all over the place while holding his sword.
(Well, he’s better than the girl still sleeping now I guess)
「What are you doing? 」
Ardis was walking towards the girl with his sword unsheathed, the man asked. Ignoring the voice directed at him, Ardis had walked until just beside the girl, and took a stance with his sword horizontally.
「――Oi, wait! 」
Startled from the man’s voice and waking up, the iris-colored pupils saw Ardis.
Quicker than her comprehension, Ardis’s sword drew a straight line above her head. In the darkness that couldn’t be fully illuminated by the remains of campfire, the sharp slash resounded across her head, and something that fell down was magnificently cut into halves.
The worm that tried to latch onto the girl fell behind her and started leaking out liquid.
The girl who looked behind her and saw the remains of the worms seemed disgusted for a moment, but then immediately turned around and drew the short sword beside her with a serious face.
「Fuwaa……. Sorry, Al. Also thanks……munya. 」
Rona yawned grandly and went into sleep again. Rona would’ve certainly dealt with it in the end but instead, he had completely dumped his task onto Ardis. It’s just what Rona would do.
Ardis swung away the remains of the worm on his sword before keeping it back in its sheath. Though the girl seemed to be aware of the danger now, it’s too late since there’re no other threats nearby already. It seems like, no matter she’s awake or not, she can’t sense presences.
「To think that you can’t handle this much……」
Leaving a town with such measly power is akin to suicide. Ardis sighed because of their recklessness.
「Don’t ask that from a child that had only started taking up a sword half a year ago. 」
Although the man rebuked so, it only made Ardis firmer.
「Since you left the city, that kind of excuse is meaningless. No matter who, a weaker opponent is much preferred. If you can’t even defend yourself from these things, forget about it all. 」
The beasts or insects in the wilderness wouldn’t spare a single thought about what hardships the human experiences. It’s a law of nature that the weaklings will be eliminated. If so, the weaklings should more so not leave the safe area that they are in.
If Ardis and Rona aren’t around, the man and the girl would’ve probably become food for beasts in no time. There might be a reason why they are like this but, at the current situation, they’re just looking to die.
「Not now but……. I will definitely be stronger――」
「There’s no meaning if it’s not now. Realize that it is now that your life is in danger. Unable to use magic, not able to sense presence, it’s impossible to live outside the city. My advice doesn’t mean harm, just return to a town and live peacefully without taking a sword. 」
He thought that the girl is from a rich family seeing her behavior. Her insensitiveness to danger in her life is the proof that she had only lived in a safe environment till now.
She’s different from someone like Ardis who has nowhere to depend on. If she has somewhere to belong, and if it’s a place that is safe, there’s no need for her to be leaping into dangerous situation.
Although Ardis wouldn’t spare any thoughts to a fool looking to die, as expected, he couldn’t ignore a girl who isn’t even of age that’s surely going to be in a pinch sooner or later. Even if he’s being harsh, it’s also for her that she has to understand it.
「That’s……, I can’t do it. 」
But without regards to Ardis’s concerns, the girl was stubborn.
「Do you want to die that much? 」
「It’s not that I want to die. I just want to protect myself and those that are important to me. Is it wrong for me to wish for such strength? 」
Ardis was shaken a little. After all, denying that would mean denying himself.
「Not that it’s wrong. There’s a saying of 『Knowing your limits』. Someone who doesn’t know their limits will die in no time. Even if you had that sword――」
As if averting his gaze from the girl who didn’t bend down from his saying, Ardis diverted his gaze to the short sword. Ardis could see at a single glance that although it’s a simple sword without any frills, it harbored considerable mana.
Ardis could create something like that at his will too but, in any case, it wasn’t something that a girl like her should have.
「That’s something too much for you. I don’t know what kind of family you are from but, without the appropriate skills, even a treasure is set to rot. 」
「I know that much, that this sword doesn’t suit me. But even so, it’s a treasure my Shishou had given. Even if I’m not a suitable user now, eventually……」
「Shishou……, a Shishou you say. 」
The word, 『Shishou』 that the girl said somehow reverberated in Ardis’s mind. And his hand unconsciously went towards his forehead as if to ease the pain that’s going to come.
「I heard from Rona your Shishou has the same name as me……」
From what Rona said, the girl’s teacher is a person that has the same name as Ardis. Although he didn’t know why a conner was using his name, he felt irritated at someone doing something with his name.
A weapon like that would only inhibit the growth of the user. If he really did want his pupil to grow, he shouldn’t have given her such a weapon but actually push her into a bunch of Nedulos or something.
「To give some girl like you this kind of sword, what an overprotective Shishou that is. He must be living a soft life. 」
「Please don’t insult my Shishou! 」
Although the girl seemed reluctant to rebuke any of his words before, she suddenly became aggressive.
「I’m not insulting him. I’m just saying that he’s too soft. 」
「Shut up! I won’t allow anymore scorn! 」
The girl was glaring obviously with rage head on at Ardis. It seems like she really respects her teacher.
「Allow or not, what are you going to do? 」
The girl swung the sword. It seems like her aim was at the sword on his waist. Although it was commendable of her to be considerate even when she is agitated, in the first place, picking a fight with someone out of her league is already the failing point.
Ardis deployed a physical barrier in the trajectory of the blade.
Just as the sword almost fell out of her hands, the girl had focused herself on grasping the sword that she had allowed Ardis’s hand to reach between her gaps. While holding down the girl’s hands forcibly, Ardis was sarcastically pointing out the girl’s lacking points.
「What a laughing matter. Not being able to do anything towards someone who is unarmed in this distance. 」
The girl’s movements showed that she wasn’t in any way familiar with fighting. If a fight broke down, she would be the first to be targeted. Even if he’s being a little harsh, he needed her to understand the consequences and give up living a dangerous life.
「Oi, leave it at that. You’re being childish. 」
The man interrupted once again. It felt like the people around the girl, no matter this man or her teacher is being too soft.
「Something like this must be said before she gets hurt――――」
As Ardis rebuked with the difference of being soft and kind, Ardis suddenly realized something was amiss and looked at the sword in the girl’s hand.
「Eh, what!? 」
Since the girl seemed surprised as well, it was probably something unexpected for her too. The short sword in the girl’s hand was surrounded in a bright light. The mana contained in the sword entangled with Ardis’s mana, then as if a chain reaction happened, the brightness was only increasing.
At the same time, enormous amount of information was flowed into Ardis’s brain.
After being sent by Elion’s arts, waking up in a forest. After repelling the unfamiliar beasts that were aiming for him, he met a tough looking swordsman, a magician with red hair, then a young faced archer, they were the three mercenaries of 『Bright Stars of White Night』.
The moonless night sky that seemed to be spread out from the horizon. The faces of the innocent twins laughing. A disrespectful woman with light blue hair self-proclaiming to be his servant.
Subjugating the demonic beings known as the Three Great Demons. Reuniting with his partner in an unexpected place. Then accepting the teacher role because of a favor he owed in the war.
The sudden unexpected change that happened to himself after annihilating the organization that attacked his pupil. It wasn’t information belonging to another person, he finally understood that it is his own memories.
「Ughh……, what is this? 」
With his fuzzy consciousness, he recalled the memories of challenging the woman general with countless comrades. The humiliation and powerlessness resurfaced, then the rage warped his sense of time. Challenged, defeated, and Ardis who was spared continued to find a human settlement like a puppet.
He felt like he was experiencing a dream.
「My head……, dream……, now……」
His left hand was supporting his head while he collapsed to his knees. Ardis who was unable to discern whether it is a dream or reality suddenly felt a piece of something found its place in himself.
That moment, his consciousness became clear.
It wasn’t a dream or an illusion. Himself that had wandered in this world for seven days, and himself that had lived in the other world for seven years. Both of them are undoubtedly himself, he understood that not by logic but instinct.
Something that was torn apart from himself forcefully finally returned to him found a place to settle down, if he tried to describe it in words, that’s the best he can come up with.
How much time had passed. Ardis felt his mind was getting clearer. The pain in his head was healing. After finally being able to raise his head, there was the figure of his serious and dedicated pupil. Although she seemed a little afraid, at the same time she looked like she was worried for himself. And naturally, Ardis asked.
「Why are you here, Minerva? 」