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「They attacked. 」
Few days after the incident with the former marquis and the plump-eared priest. Ardis was at the capital in secret meeting Moore.
「They manage to hurt someone like you? 」
Moore was speechless seeing Ardis’s face which still had scars. The church had moved quicker than what the Duke and Moore expected.
Even if he’s branded a heretic, moving that much force so quickly was unexpected. Ardis was the same in that regard.
After all, there’s no way for him to know that they would be willing to send soldiers into the dangerous Corsas Forest.
「I admit I had some oversight. They came with that hand. 」
「They would go that far……」
Moore who heard from Ardis that the soldiers would sacrifice themselves in order to kill Ardis had a bitter expression.
On the other hand, Ardis was not peace in mind either. He was successful in annihilating all the troops the church sent.
However, just as what the plump-eared priest said at the very end, the moment the church knew the subjugation squad didn’t return, they would know that Ardis was the culprit.
On top of that, they disclosed it publicly as not sending subjugation forces but a priest and his followers in order to persuade Ardis peacefully but was instead murdered.
It was evidently twisting the truth, in a way full of malice. However, no one is there to point that out.
After all, no one else other than Ardis and his party is still alive to know what had truly happened there.
Even the people that hadn’t been aggressive on Ardis united at once. The society was rejecting Ardis as a heretical being.
The sides changed quickly, Ardis who felt disappointed in the people easily influenced by the church told Moore his purpose here.
「There’s a student in Mariules Academy named Kyrill. I hope that you can look after him. 」
Ardis no longer has the choice of staying in the same place in Corsas Forest.
Although considering the influence of the church, it would be the same in any place, but the least he can do now is to not stay near the capital.
Despite feeling a little shameful for not making use of his experiences when he was chased out of Thoria, there’s no choice now prioritizing the twins’ safety.
If that happens, he would be worried about Kyrill.
Even if only a few people know about the connection between Ardis and Kyrill, there might someone from the church or the Holguin house who knows about it.
It might be even told to Lord Thoria. If Ardis and his party hid themselves, then the remaining target would be Kyrill.
Although Ardis valued Kyrill’s ability to a certain extent, he’s still incapable of protecting himself from the church’s pressure or nobles’ power.
If Moore and Duke Nyrestia were to back him up, then Ardis can rest easy.
「Where are you planning to go next? 」
He was asking for someone to look after Kyrill, in other words, it hinted that he’s going to leave the capital. Moore who realized that asked for Ardis’s next destination.
「I will be heading west. 」
Probably expecting Ardis’s answer, Moore nodded with a face of agreement.
「I guessed so. Since it’s like this now, everywhere would be about the same but, certainly the west would be a little better. The Coalition’s faith in the Goddess is less after all. 」
The northern Bronshell Republic is same in the regards as Nagras Kingdom that they’re both harsh in twins.
On top of that, woman are deemed insignificant there, it’s not a good country for Nere and the twins too.
As for Elmenia Empire in the south-east, it’s naturally out of the question as Ardis had only encountered them recently in war. Ardis who had killed many of their nobles in the battlefield is probably a nemesis of many in the Empire.
The worst case would be that the Empire would chase Ardis even more than the Kingdom. Naturally, the remaining choice would be the Coalition in the west.
Just like its name, the Coalition is made from many city-states. Each and every city are strongly independent, and among them are some that are willing to accept the existences of twins.
What worried him is how severe is the heretic branding in different places. It’s not like the whole world despise twins without questions.
The reason why they cannot stand out and cover for them is because of the enormous pressure the church has.
After all, there were people like the members of 『Bright Stars of White Night』, Kashiha of the inn in Thoria, and also Kyrill who has a sister born as one half of twins who had helped him along the way.
Although he couldn’t think positively for everything, he thought that not all humans are enemies at the very least.
「Even though I don’t think you would be caught off guard against anyone……」
Moore’s words softened at the end.
「As expected, master’s hand wouldn’t reach that far outside the country. 」
「I’m not intending to bother you all to that extent. 」
Even though the Duke had been very helpful within the Kingdom’s bounds, as expected, his influence wouldn’t reach into the Coalition.
「There’s no need to think too much about it. Minerva and Kyrill, I will leave them both to you. 」
Ardis replied without seeming bothered to Moore who was apologizing.
「Even if you say that, honestly speaking, it’s hard for Ojou-sama. Won’t you meet her for the last time before you leave the capital? 」
That active young noble lady must’ve been troubling the new guard captain of the Duke house recently.
Ardis could do nothing but apologize to Moore who looked quite desperate for that request.
「Sorry but I really don’t have the room for that. Nere and the twins were injured too. It’s already quite the limit to have come here to the capital and meet with you. 」
「I know but……」
「I’m sorry for Minerva. The lessons were still halfway, and in the end I haven’t even taught her sword magic. Please convey to her my apology. 」
「Just that? Isn’t there……, something more you want to tell her? 」
「It’s better for Minerva to not be involved too much considering the situation. You can teach her swordsmanship after I leave. 」
Moore sighed a little at Ardis’s words.
「Although it’s a little late, Ojou-sama wouldn’t be convinced with just that much. 」
「……Don’t tell her that you’ve met with me today, you know? 」
「Of course I wouldn’t. I can already imagine she’s raising a ruckus. 」
Could that really be someone of a prestige background’s doing, as Ardis forgotten about the situation for a moment and smiled bitterly.
「Well, the last problem is what about that girl……」
Ardis who had left Moore afterwards was walking on the streets covered in a hood while thinking about the girl that is showing up in his mana sensing range.
From Rona’s story, she is the leftover of the organization with the name of 『Crimson Osprey』. Unexpectedly, that girl was able to find Ardis who was covered in a hood and started following him for some reason.
According to the person herself, it is apparently 「According to smell」, but Ardis was skeptical considering that she’s not a canine after all.
Ardis bought some light meals from the stalls on the streets before entering a slightly secluded alley.
As he beckoned with his hand gesture, the girl who was following behind him approached in quick strides.
「Here, today’s lunch. 」
Even though according to Rona that it is nothing other than taming, Ardis thought that the girl was similar in nature to Fillia and Riana, they’re all abused children that he should give a hand to.
While looking at the girl eating the meat bun, Ardis pondered about her future.
「Not enough. 」
The girl muttered after finishing quickly. It seems like she had become quite familiar with Ardis that some sort of conversation can be held. And to the point of letting her desires be known.
「Want mine? 」
Offering his own portion of meat bun to the girl, the girl who took it stopped momentarily. Having another meat bun in her hands, the girl stared up at Ardis.
「Are you sure? 」
「Yeah, take it. I will be eating back home later. 」
Hearing that, the girl was no longer reserved.
Ardis felt a little nostalgic seeing her figure. It was when Ardis was still a member of a mercenary band.
Something that had happened more than fifteen years ago.
「Again, the leader picked up kids again. 」
「Again? That person is really freewilled. 」
One day when he was about to become a proper mercenary from an apprentice, the mercenaries in the band were drinking alcohol and gossiped something that Ardis thought would not concern him at the slightest.
It was when the leader, Greihs suddenly brought two children over and pushed them over to him that he knew that it was the converse.
「Ha? Taking care of them? 」
「That’s right. You and Ruu will do it. 」
Greihs brought two children over that hadn’t even reached their growing spurt, apparently a pair of siblings of an elder brother and a little sister.
「Why me……rather us? We’re not teachers but mercenaries. Isn’t fighting our only job? 」
「What? Even though you yourself was picked up, you’re not willing to do it to the others? 」
Greihs asked with a tinge of teasing. After all, it was Greihs himself who had picked up Ardis, as Ardis had nothing left to rebuke.
「No, I’m not saying that……」
「Aah――, how disappointing. I didn’t know that you were such an ungrateful――」
Greihs followed with mental attack purposefully.
「……I am grateful. 」
As Ardis managed to say that hesitantly, Greihs was hitting his back with a grin.
「I see, I see. If you’re grateful, then take care of them as much as you were taken care of. 」
Ardis was grateful to Greihs. After all, he was the one who picked up Ardis who had nowhere to go and taught him how to fight. Exactly because of that, Ardis wanted to be help of Greihs after finally becoming capable.
「But it was you that brought me up. That doesn’t concern these two. 」
「It’s not something like that. 」
Greihs who suddenly showed a gentle face started explaining.
「Say Ardis, there’s no knowing when people have to say farewell, especially for us mercenaries. It’s easy to die for people like us. There’s not always a scenario that you can repay someone that had helped you. Despite so, I don’t want to see people take it for granted. Certainly repaying your benefactor will be the best scenario. So Ardis, where do you think you should direct your gratefulness to when that happens? 」
Ardis immediately answered the unexpected question.
「No way I would know. 」
「Think for a little, Ardis. You should repay the grace you received to the next generation. Then, the ones that you took care of will do the same for the next generation too. The world will revolve like that. At the very least, someone somewhere will be saved because of that. As long as someone is there to continue it, my will can be succeeded. How about it, what I did won’t be for a waste right? 」
「But Greihs is not dead yet. You’re still here. 」
「Don’t mind the details, I’m telling you to do it in this fashion. 」
Ardis at that time had no idea what Greihs felt at that moment. Greihs explained another reason seeing Ardis who still didn’t seem convinced.
「Well, it’s that. What I said just now is one reason but, I don’t need someone selfish in my mercenary band. A mercenary that can’t even take care of someone else should just scram to somewhere else. It will be your final assignment to graduate from an apprentice. Give up and do it. 」
「It’s not like I had a choice to refuse from the start right? 」
「Either do it, or scram. There’s a choice though? 」
Ardis clicked his tongue.
「Fine. It’s fine as long as me and Ruu take care of them right?」
「Yeah right. Honesty is a good point of yours. I will leave them to you, train them properly, whether they grow up on the straight path or not depends on you. 」
Seeing Greihs leave after saying so, Ardis sighed. It’s time to face reality, as Ardis turned to the two children who were waiting patiently.
「How old are you two? 」
「I’m eleven. 」
Unlike the elder brother who replied immediately, the younger sister replied after a while looking a little afraid.
Both of them had tattered clothes, and their limbs were thin to the bones. It was so fragile that a trained mercenary like Ardis could probably easily break them.
「For the time being, it’s time for meal. Rather, did they even prepare a portion for these guys? 」
Judging that there won’t be any results training them in their current situation, and there being a need to discuss with Luciel, the best course now would be a meal first.
Bringing the two siblings together and getting their portions for them, he chose a suitable place to sit.
It seems like the meal for the two siblings were prepared but, they’re in a mercenary band. It was a gathering of people who exchanges meal by fighting.
Naturally, the meals for the children who cannot fight would be lesser. Only bread and a cup of soup were given to the sibling.
On the contrary, Ardis had three bread and a plate of side dishes of thin sliced roasted meat and boiled root vegetables.
The younger sister who were only given a bread easily finished it and looked towards the plate. It was obvious with a glance that they are both malnutritioned.
There’s no way one bread and a cup of soup can be filling.
「You can’t. 」
The elder brother panickily turned the younger sister’s face towards himself. He’s probably afraid to anger Ardis. Seeing that, Ardis felt like he saw himself in the elder brother.
『That much is not enough right. Here, eat more. 』
During that time, Greihs had said so before sharing his portion of meal. I see, as Ardis suddenly realized. Certainly Ardis had succeeded it from Greihs.
His emotions along with the slice of bread, as a matter of course. Ardis who recalled his older times split the bread into half and put the sliced meat in between, before giving it to the siblings.
The younger sister asked while looking afraid.
「Just eat. There’s nothing you can do if you’re that thin. 」
Hearing that, the siblings didn’t even say thanks as they wolfed it down. Seeing their figures focused on the bread, Ardis thought he understood a little what Greihs was saying.
Seeing the girl biting on the meat bun now, Ardis felt like he saw the two siblings again. Remembering the two siblings who had been treating himself as a brother, his hatred against the madwoman was renewed.
Shaking his head to forcefully clear his image, Ardis returned his gaze onto the girl in front of him. Compared to that time, the girl now is older by several years compared to the siblings.
However, this girl has her circumstances too. Only having the knowledge of fighting or spying, in that regard, she was in a sense younger.
Her mind probably wasn’t able to grow because of restrictions.
『Whether they grow up on the straight path or not depends on you. 』
Greihs words suddenly resurfaced. If her mind is still not twisted, then there’s still a chance left.
Despite knowing it’s probably unnecessary, he made an excuse that it was Greihs’s influence that made him want to do something regardless.
「Listen while you eat. 」
Seeing the girl who answered with her gaze, Ardis suggested what he’d thought.
「I have something to ask from you. If you can do it well, then I will treat you to anything for dinner tonight. 」