Ardis who left the capital, Gran brought Sharu together with him and regrouped with Nere and the others. Just as expected, even when Sharu saw the twins, she didn’t even bat an eye nor got interested.
In a sense, it was a rare case of the benefits of the organization’s education. And as usual, Rona seemed like he wanted to say something, as for Nere, she accepted wordlessly with 「If master says so. 」, and the twins were happy to have someone closer to their age as they started to flock around Sharu.
Sharu seemed to glare at him constantly but, Ardis decided to pretend not to notice it.
Easily getting out of the Nagras Kingdom’s territory without any troubles on the road, they arrived at Reiten, one of the cities of the Coalition.
「I will be going ahead first. Nere and Rona, stay with the two here for now. 」
「You’re bringing that kid? 」
「She would be following by herself anyways. 」
Answering Rona’s question, Ardis made a note to Sharu.
「Sharu, you shouldn’t follow me too closely. It’s better to not make people think that you’re my companion. 」
Nodding at Ardis, Sharu obediently followed at a distance that wouldn’t make people suspect.
Just as Ardis entered Reiten as a normal mercenary and purposefully walking down the streets without any cover.
「Demon of the evil cult! Taste the judgement of the heavens! 」
Ardis was suddenly surrounded by several men in the middle of the street, and was attacked by them without any precursor.
「To think they would even do it publicly……」
Having the church’s symbol hanging on their neck, it’s easy to tell that they are devout believers of the Goddess.
However, the problem was the surrounding atmosphere. It would’ve been better if the other citizens were just looking from afar to see what’s happening.
But their gazes were something rather than being afraid of the Goddess believers for suddenly drawing their weapons, they were on guard against Ardis.
In other words, Ardis’s news of being a heretic had already spread to Reiten. Seeing the fact they were starting to murmur when they saw Ardis’s face, his drawings might’ve been published already
While being impressed by how thorough they are, Ardis thought about the future. Unlike the time he left Thoria, this time, it’s not like he can get a safe place just by changing countries.
「Well, the first thing to do is finish up here huh. 」
While sighing, Ardis muttered to himself. Defending against the attackers is easy. Seeing from the fact that there aren’t even more than ten people, and their abilities looked like barely amateur mercenaries.
However, the problem was because they are in the middle of the streets under many public gazes. He couldn’t play a hand like he did in the forest facing the previous marquis or the plump-eared priest.
Although he felt angry for being called an evil being under unjustified reasoning, it’s not like he can kill his opponents here, if he finished them off now, it would only contribute to his notoriety.
He knew that people like them who like to be reckless can’t possibly form orderly groups already but, it’s the truth that lackeys like them aren’t being shackled properly lately.
「Get him! 」
While thinking this and that, the believers ran at him at once.
「Sorry but I don’t plan on being your opponent. 」
Dodging the attack that is too flimsy in his eyes, Ardis said so before running into the crowds of people.
「Wait! Don’t let him escape! 」
Ignoring the voices from behind, Ardis ran and shook off the mercenaries in the streets, and quickly entered a suitable alleyway.
「Yare yare, it’s worse than I thought. 」
Despite saying so, his expression didn’t look that much troubled, as Ardis turned around.
「Can I get some help again? 」
「What for? 」
Sharu was behind Ardis already. She was blending in together with the pedestrians during the incident just now.
Being able to follow Ardis this easily is the proof of her abilities. Although in pure combat power, she couldn’t stand against two Ractors but, her ability in stealth movements is very valuable.
「There’s a message that I want to pass on to a woman called Marrieda in the Litte Business Association. 」
「The message? 」
「Tell her 『I will be meeting you tonight」. 」
「……A night crawl? 」
「Why does it become that. 」
Ardis sighed with one of his hand covering his eyes at the sudden rebuttal. Despite not knowing things that’s considered common, she would know about these things strangely.
Even though it might’ve been relevant for her stealth missions, Ardis still thought that she’s a girl with peculiar imbalance in knowledge.
「In any case, just tell her that. Let me be clear, it’s not a night crawl. It’s just a private conversation. Use this to buy anything you want as the compensation. 」
While saying so, Ardis tried to hand over a silver coin but, Sharu didn’t take it.
「I don’t need money. Now is work time. 」
「……Got it. I will buy something simply as usual I guess. Seriously, I still can’t understand why you won’t take money but would take food……」
「Delicious things are no problem because they are a necessity. It is not a reward, but a procured resource. 」
It seems like Sharu wouldn’t allow herself to take money. Sharu who is following Ardis under the pretense of monitoring was arguing that getting paid is a problem.
Ardis felt that the people living by shady business all have weird quirks that normal people wouldn’t understand, be it this girl or the information broker, Chezare.
「I will be back. 」
Leaving aside Ardis who was thinking so, Sharu disappeared into the streets after verifying the location of Litte Business Association.
That night. The building of the Litte Business Association located near the center of Reiten.
On the second floor, a woman in her prime age was doing paper work in a bright room.
「I’m entering. 」
A sudden voice came from somewhere, despite it being a situation where one would’ve screamed, the woman answered the voice looking a little surprised.
「Oyan? You’re already here~nii? Isn’t a later time better for a night crawl――? 」
「Ha? Why do I have to do a night crawl to you. 」
Ardis denied the words of Marrieda, the president of the Litte Business Association smiling playfully. Ardis recalled the exchange during the day as he frowned and asked.
「Could it be, that girl said it like that? 」
「Unnya. I only heard 『I will be meeting you tonight』~nii. 」
It seems like it wasn’t Sharu’s doing, as Ardis felt a little relieved.
「So why does it become a night crawl. 」
「I mean Ardis-kun. Visiting a young maiden’s room late in the night, it is nothing but a night crawl right. 」
Ardis replied spitefully at the teasing woman.
「You’re not at an age to be called a young maiden though. 」
「Hey there, that’s not something that you should ever say in front of a girl~nii. 」
「Is that a warning from your 『Prophetic Dreams』? 」
「It’s a common knowledge~nii. 」
Marrieda finished cleaning up the documents on her table while they were conversing and faced towards Ardis once again.
「It’s been a long time~nii. Was it two, three years~nii? 」
「Yeah. We met before the war with the Empire, so it’s about that much. 」
Although in Ardis’s time, it was one year shorter, but he decided to play along as it was bothersome to explain about the otherworld.
「You know what situation I’m in now? 」
「Hmm……. Only about you left the Kingdom because of the heretic branding~nii. 」
「Though it seems like you knew I was going to meet you. 」
「I knew from my dreams about that~nii. Just that I didn’t know the reason was because of the church though~n. 」
Naturally, there’s a church in Reiten as well. Since it’s an official declaration, the news must’ve been spread despite it being another country.
「Regarding the heretic branding, how much of it is known in Reiten? 」
「Unn……, only a drawing of Ardis-kun published by the church~n? 」
「So there was a drawing huh……」
Ardis clicked his tongue at the expected answer.
「But the church’s influence in Reiten is originally weak, so I don’t think there would be people showing outright hostility. 」
Although Marrieda was thinking positively, Ardis revealed what happened without hiding his displeasure.
「During the day, I was attacked by a group of mercenaries wearing the church’s mark just as I arrived. 」
「Uwaa……. They must not be valuing their lives……」
Forgotten about her suffix in her sentence, Marrieda returned to her original speech unintentionally.
「I guess they’re everywhere~nii. Troublesome believers like them. 」
「I bet. 」
Ardis agreed without hiding his tired expression.
「So, what are you planning~nii? 」
「I had some hope in the Coalition being a little better than the Kingdom though. 」
「Reiten is comparatively better but, it’s not like Ardis-kun will believe it now right――」
If not for the incident during the day, he might’ve believed it but, Ardis couldn’t be convinced by what Marrieda say now.
「Here should be the same as the Coalition’s biggest city, Calvs, but the more west you go, the more devout believers there is. 」
「I heard about it already but, is the church’s influence in the west that strong? 」
「After all, it’s the land that the Goddess had descended to many times~nii. Their devoutness is different from people of the east. 」
West of the Coalition, at the western end of the continent is the Holy Kingdom, said to established by people who were guided by the Goddess.
Since the Goddess had influenced the country directly, the people’s faith and the church’s influence are significantly greater than the Nagras Kingdom’s or Elmenia Empire’s.
Naturally, the Coalition that neighbors the Holy Kingdom is influenced as well. As a result, the church has stronger influence in the western parts of the Coalition.
「If the Coalition is a no-go……」
There’s a need to head for another country but, there’re not many choices.
Heading for the Bronshell Republic in the north, or crossing the seas after that to Alburn Kingdom situated on an island, or hiding in Elmenia Empire.
However, since Bronshell Republic is a country where the females are deemed insignificant, it wouldn’t be a comfortable place for Nere and the twins. As for Alburn, Ardis heard from Chezare that a civil war is about to start there. And lastly, Elmenia Empire is the opponent that Ardis faced off in the war recently. It’s natural to think that they would be hostile.
「Well, with Ardis-kun’s abilities, there’s no need to stay in a city right~n? 」
Marrieda said it as a matter of fact irresponsibly to Ardis who had a troubled face, while unfolding a map.
「Take a look, Ardis-kun. 」
Prompted by Marrieda, the map he saw encompassed the entire continent and recorded the boundaries of each country.
「The nations had been fighting at their borders many times for more land~nii, like the Kingdom and the Empire. But Ardis-kun, it’s not like all the land on the continent is some country’s. 」
What Marrieda said was right. Although there are several countries on the continent, the land itself had more than half of wilderness without people living.
Conversely, it also meant that they are places unsuitable for human to live that no country would take. Dangerous topography that would hinder movements, presence of dangerous demonic beings, or barren lands unsuitable for agriculture.
Because of that, they are a lot of land that people didn’t value. Corsas Forest is one of such example.
「What are you trying to say? 」
「Even if you said you lived in the capital, it’s not like you lived in it truly right? Since you have the ability to live in the Corsas Forest, there’s another choice to live around here~nii. If it’s here, the church and nobles wouldn’t try to search, and they can’t make a move either. 」
While saying so, Marrieda pointed towards a spot on the map. It was the Canobis Mountain Range situated at the middle of the continent.