Ardis who separated from Fillia and Rona after the slave market gathered rumors around the town.
Walking down the streets lined with vacant stores, listening into the stalls that have fewer than usual customers and the conversations of the pedestrians on the streets.
What he came to know is the reputation of the Scyts Business Association is worse than expected. Forging documents to get themselves a better place in a deal, blackmailing their trading partners to gain more, crushing their opponents whenever they see a chance.
It seems like among ten slaves that the association takes away, there’re always one or two that 『Disappears without ever being seen again』, it’s a famous story between the merchants.
Including the questionable rumors about sounds of beast howling coming from the association’s grounds, the number of bad rumors surrounding the association is definitely not little.
Regardless if it’s the truth or exaggeration, there were also stories that they had been kidnapping refugees to sell as merchandises.
「There’s dirt everywhere without digging. Why is something like that still left alone……」
He thought they managed to secure their position by adhering to the feudal lord but, it seems like he was wrong.
「The investigation was in place originally. But then the civil war happened just as they wanted to make a move with the evidence. Being in the royal faction, there was no time to bother with a business association’s notoriety. After all, this town is right in the middle of territories under Lord Corpse’s faction. 」
It was the information he got from the information broker in a tavern that was open during the day. If it’s like this, Ardis decided to investigate more.
For Ardis, what he saw at the market was not something he could go by without feeling anything. However, it’s not like his sense of justice is so strong that he would be willing to commit a crime to save them.
If Fillia didn’t ask, he would’ve probably held back and let them go even if it felt wrong. But if the opponent is a villain already committing something illegal, it’s a different story. They’re people that the feudal lord wants to disappear as well.
Even if Ardis don’t personally bring them to ruin, he can just force the feudal lord and the soldiers to make a move.
「Well then, better do it quick. 」
Ardis immediately rode into the Scyts Business Association. With no magic barrier shielding the building, it was easy even with Ardis’s amateurish stealth skills.
There’s no need to make himself invisible if he just entered from above, and if he’s careful with the mana signatures, it’s easy to get into the deepest part of the buildings.
「It’s natural for places like this to have them underground but……」
Ardis’s mana detection caught many responses.
As expected of its scale, there were many employees, there seems to be several signatures in rooms, probably working on documents, but most of them are moving around busily.
Among them, there was a small mana signature underground of the biggest building. On the other hand, there was also another signature that’s too big to be considered a human’s.
「……That’s quite out of place. The smaller one is…… a bug? 」
The weak signature was almost disappearing. Ardis who felt like it might be a lead went there to confirm first.
Carefully advancing in the building to not get spotted by the employees, he then reached a study decorated with many luxurious items, finding a staircase hidden in the room.
「It’s here huh. 」
He arrived at a small room on one side of the hallway. Ardis’s nose was assaulted by intense blood and excretion odor. There’re a total of four isolated rooms.
Each of them had people with shackles fixed to the wall with chains. Ardis approached the only room that still had a signature.
There was a young boy chained there. Elongated bruises and red-burnt skin all over his body. The coagulated blood covered his entire body, there’s not even a way to tell his original skin color.
「So irritating. 」
Indignation rose within Ardis’s black eyes. Easily cutting open the bars of the isolated room with 『Skies of Myriad Colors』 called across the 『Gate』, he entered the isolated room.
Maybe noticing his presence, the young boy’s body twitched. Ardis paid no mind and swung his sword twice, cutting off the shackles fixing his two arms on the wall.
Was it that his senses are already too numb to feel pain, or not having any stamina to even speak, the young boy fell on the ground with a small groan.
「Endure for a little more. 」
Not knowing whether it was even heard or not, Ardis took off his hood and robe and laid it on the boy.
「It’s better than nothing. 」
Creating few fireballs in the room, Ardis raised the temperature of the chilly room. Then, taking out a high-grade medicine from the pouch on his waist, he raised the young boy’s body.
「Can you drink? 」
Placing the opened medicine vial at his mouth, the young boy’s lips moved a little. As the boy’s moist lips formed a smile, the mana signature in front of him disappeared into nothing.
High-grade medicines have the power to even heal dying people. However, that’s not always effective.
Ardis didn’t have enough of them to splash it all over the injured boy, and the boy was too weak that he couldn’t even ingest it.
He could’ve avoided death if Ardis was a day earlier. However, thinking about that now is meaningless. The little high-grade medicine that he managed to ingest had taken effect.
Majority of the wounds on the boy disappeared.
「………………Rest in peace. 」
Laying down the boy slowly, Ardis stood up. After closing his eyes for a while, eventually he opened them and muttered.
「So there’s not a single reason to be holding back. 」
In the cold isolated room, his voice was flat, albeit sharp as a blade. Needing to find a place to vent his emotions, Ardis left the isolated room, walking deeper into the hallway.
There was a mana signature with a scale abnormal to be under a safe town. Arriving at a dead end, there was a metal door that was tougher than metal bars.
It was a double door spanning over three meters. The strong mana signature was coming from within. Ardis broke off the lock on the metal door with Skies of Myriad Colors, and entered the room by forcefully pulling open the door.
At that moment, liquid were shot towards Ardis’s head at amazing speeds. However, Ardis who had been on guard from the beginning dodged the first attack and blocked the second with a magic barrier.
「Hell Mantis? How the hell did they get something like this? 」
The demonic being in the room was a 『Hell Mantis』 that inhabits in the Canobis Mountain Range normally. The old bamboo color reminiscing of a mantis, a lump of pure violence, said to be an opponent most mercenaries could never confront.
Capturing a demonic being like that and bringing it into the town, it surely isn’t an easy feat. However, his questions soon disappeared.
The Hell Mantis that wanted to attack Ardis unnaturally stopped, and a ringing metal sound reverberated in the room.
Ardis saw the shackles restraining the foot of the Hell Mantis. Examining closely as he continued to defend against the attacks, he noticed the shackles were digging into its already thin leg, even deforming the shape of its exoskeleton.
The size didn’t fit. Seeing that, Ardis understood.
「They brought it when it’s still young huh. 」
Certainly, it’s very plausible to capture one when it’s still in its infancy. Of course, it was still tremendously dangerous, but it’s at least more realistic than capturing an adult demonic being.
As it grew up, the size of the shackles didn’t grow, as a result, the shackles dug into its body, deforming its legs. Naturally, shackles made from Heavy Iron wouldn’t be able to restrain a demonic being.
However, the shackles on the Hell Mantis’s legs and its connecting chains were different from normal metal, having a tinge of red.
「Even using Lesha powder, they had been splurging. 」
It’s the powder made from 『Lesha』, a jewel that had its manufacturing process long-lost. When processing the metal, adding it while injecting mana would increase the product’s toughness by folds, making the shackles possible to restrain demonic beings.
Ardis’s three swords, 『Skies of Myriad Colors』, 『Springtime Mist』 and 『Moon’s Blizzard』 were all made with the rare Lesha powder.
Since Lesha powder is a rare material that could never be made again, it’s traded at enormous prices. No one could’ve thought there would be people using Lesha powder to make shackles.
「What to do……」
Ardis was thinking for an idea while blocking the Hell Mantis’s spit. If the Hell Mantis’s presence get known, the Scyts Business Association would be done for.
It’s a serious felony to bring a demonic being into a town. Although kidnapping people and selling them illegally is already a serious crime, this is a league above that.
However, the problem was how to convey this to the feudal lord. There’s no way the feudal lord would believe a random mercenary.
On top of that, Ardis is a wanted person currently. Ardis can try going wild in this place, as their downfall will be confirmed if people knew about the demonic being the association reared.
It was at that time. Ardis who was thinking about what he should do while facing the Hell Mantis heard several footsteps approaching.
「Well, it’s weirder if they don’t notice it being so violent. 」
It’s not like the Hell Mantis would calm down with Ardis standing there. Thanks to the shackled Hell Mantis raging around, it seems like the people from the association noticed.
Did it get excited hearing the footsteps, the Hell Mantis rampaged even more violently.
「Oi oi, calm down. 」
It’s natural why Ardis looked a little troubled. After all, the Hell Mantis was rushing forward with the momentum of lobbing his own legs off.
Cracks formed around the Hell Mantis’s legs. It wasn’t the shackles that had cracks, but the Hell Mantis’s own legs. Its own instincts might be overpowering the pain that it was feeling.
「What! What’s happening!? 」
「Who is this bastard!? 」
Five armed men arrived.
Naturally, for them, rather than the demonic being that they knew were here in the first place, they were on guard against Ardis who is an unwelcomed guest.
Pulling their swords out and forming a half circle, they were eyeing Ardis’s each movement.
It was at that moment. Along with an uncomfortable sound, the Hell Mantis’s legs were shredded, and both its legs were released from the shackles.
The Hell Mantis immediately charged at Ardis who was closest but, having its charge blocked with a barrier, it immediately changed its target to the people at the entrance.
In an instant, one of the armed men had his head sliced off by the Hell Mantis’s scythe.
Another one had his chest stabbed through, but the remaining three managed to avoid immediate death. The Hell Mantis ignored the remaining three and Ardis, flying at a low altitude in the hallway.
「That’s bad news……」
As expected, he cannot allow the Hell Mantis to become free like that. Even if the Scyts Business Association is doing shady business, it’s not like everyone in it is a bad person.
Unlike the executives and these men who knew the underside, there should also be innocent employees who don’t know about it.
He wanted the Scyts Business Association to pay for their wrongdoings but, it’s not like he wanted even the employees to pay their lives.
Ardis slipped past the men standing shakily, chasing after the Hell Mantis’s mana.