「Isn’t it little misses, it’s been a while. 」
A short woman carrying a bag on her back smiled with wrinkles at the corner of her eyes deepening. She’s Michelle.
A peddler that goes around the continent, an old acquaintance of Ardis. With the rapid increase in population of the village, there were some problems, with one of them being trading with the outside.
Originally, it was up to a young man called Sieg born of the village who had been transporting the goods that cannot be self-sufficient such as medicine, oil and seasoning to the village.
However, due to the rapid expansion, it was obvious that it is no longer a job possible to do with just one person.
And at that occasion, Ardis called out to Michelle who was an old acquaintance. Michelle didn’t look particularly different even when facing Riana or Fillia.
Riana was only a little on guard at the beginning.
After understanding that her straightforward mouth is the same for everyone, their sense of distance had shrunk considerably.
「Hello, Michelle-san. 」
「It’s been a while. 」
After Karina, Riana as well got a response from Michelle. Then suddenly, a woman’s voice interjected.
Among the mercenaries that accompanied Michelle, there was a red-haired girl jumping out. Riana’s expression turned gloomy for a moment.
However, even that expression of hers was immediately covered by the embrace of the red-haired girl.
Riana was embraced tightly, as the female magician rubbed her cheeks on Riana’s head.
She’s one of the members of 『Bright Stars of White Night』, a mercenary party that Ardis was together with quite frequently in the past.
Since they were taken care of when they were still young, there wasn’t any animosity but, Riana still isn’t used to the excessive skin ship.
「Oi, Orphellia. Riana’s looking in pain. Control yourself. 」
「Aah, sorry, Riana-chan. 」
It was the barbarian-looking swordsman, the party leader, Ted that reminded Orphellia.
After getting freed from the restraint, Riana immediately retreated and took distance.
「You don’t have to be so cautious……」
「Ahaha. I mean, it’s natural to be, after almost getting suffocated so many times already. 」
Teasing Orphellia who muttered lonelily, the short man with the bow laughed. Orphellia glared at the man.
「You too Norris. It’s getting troublesome. 」
「Aite aite. 」
As Ted pointed out his bad points, the man called Norris just shrugged and dodged his gaze.
「Huh? But Michelle-san, isn’t it a little earlier than expected? 」
Seeing the exchanges between them while smiling bitterly, Karina recalled something as she asked.
Come to think of it, as Riana thought it was strange too. Michelle would arrive in the village once every two months normally.
Recalling that the last time Michelle came was not even half a month ago, Riana tilted her head.
「Yes, I know it’s a little earlier. I was supposed to come half a month later originally. But――」
Michelle’s expression changed at Karina’s question.
「I heard it from rumors, it’s something urgent. So I thought it would be better let you all know earlier. 」
「Something urgent? 」
「Well, for the time being, it probably wouldn’t affect the village directly. ――Ah, is Ardis in today? 」
Michelle asked, and Riana said the same thing as she did to Rupus this morning.
「Ardis went to Reiten with Rona today. 」
「Arya, we missed each other then, what a shame, do you know when he will be coming back? 」
「I think he will be back within the day. 」
「I see. Then I suppose it’s fine……」
Ardis and Rona were not travelling on foot like normal people. Because they can fly in the sky without any obstacles, they can cover absurd distance capable of departing in the morning and return before the night.
However, that’s a secret not even known to Michelle and also the members of 『Bright Stars of White Night』.
Naturally, Michelle and the others would think that Ardis had already been away from the village for some days.
「But if he went to Reiten, then he might’ve gotten the news there by the time he returns. 」
「……What happened? 」
Turning back to Riana, Michelle explained with a serious expression.
「The Empire seems to be moving. There might be another war with the Kingdom soon. 」
Notifying Ardis who returned from Reiten about the arrival of Michelle and the others, together with Rona and Nere, they went to the village chief’s house.
The village chief’s house that also serves as a guest house was where the members of 『Bright Stars of White Night』 and Michelle were at.
The people gathered there were the village chief, the priest Elma, the council members and other various central figures of the village. It was a gathering of the usual members that are always present when discussing various issues in the village.
Only Sera was not around among the people as she left three days ago. Since everyone is here, Michelle started, notifying them about the fact that the Elmenia Empire’s movements were a little suspicious.
「You mean, the Empire is going to a war with the Kingdom again? 」
「It’s still unknown whether there will be a war yet or not. But if there is one, it’s undoubtedly pointed at the Kingdom. 」
「Well, the Empire lost really pathetically four years ago after all. 」
One of the council’s question was answered by Michelle, and Ted behind her added on with an explanation of the Empire’s possible motive.
In the first place, the Elmenia Empire has no opponent other than the Nagras Kingdom for historical, political and geographical reasons.
If the Empire is moving their army, it’s likely that their opponent will be the Kingdom.
「However, even if there’s a war, does that matter us? We are protected by Angel-sama’s barrier here, and in the first place, there isn’t other people that can reach here without the protective charm of Angel-sama. 」
One of the councils raised that it wasn’t something grave thought to concern the village.
「That might be true. It’s thanks to this『Demon Repelling Charm』 that we can arrive here safely. I don’t know what kind of logic is behind it but, we didn’t even encounter any demonic beings along the way here. 」
While saying so, Michelle took out the charm that was on her neck. It was a charm that the villagers here call 『Angel-sama’s charm』, handmade by Sera.
Even Ardis didn’t know much behind its principles but, apparently it can keep demonic beings and beasts away if wore.
Despite peddling goods from the outside to the village by himself, the young man, Sieg had always been able to do it without encountering demonic beings.
But the charm’s only help was to make it difficult to encounter dangerous opponents by making the wearer difficult to be noticed, Sera as well reminded that there’s no guaranteed safety just by wearing it.
「If not for this, even hiring famous mercenaries wouldn’t get me this deep in the mountains. Right, Ted? 」
「Although it’s shameful to acknowledge, it’s probably impossible. Even if we have Clente and Helena, the journey up to here is too dangerous, let alone escorting a peddler with goods. 」
「Then there’s no problem, right. Even if the Empire won, they wouldn’t come here, and there’s no chance deserters can reach here. In fact, there wasn’t any effect from the war four years ago. 」
At that point, the village chief put on a pause on the council that seemed to think that there would be no influence to the village.
「It might’ve been so four years ago but, now is not necessarily same as before. 」
Elma agreed with the village chief.
「It’s just as the chief said. Certainly, the war ended without affecting us in any way four years ago. But there’s no guarantee that the war will end immediately this time too. If the war prolongs, prices of goods will rise, and logistics will be disturbed because of the raging war. The worsening security will cause danger in the highway, and Michelle-san wouldn’t be able to move as easily as before. 」
「And unlike the last war, the population of the village had increased significantly. It’s no longer an amount that Sieg alone can manage like before. 」
As the village chief said, because of the increase in villagers, there was a need to trade more with the outside.
That’s why, Michelle was responsible for a part of bringing in necessary supplies to the village.
「Exactly that. The prices will go up, and goods will be in lack when the battlefield widens. Leaving aside wanted goods, necessary goods like medicine or seasoning might become hard to come by. Isn’t it better to stock up on that now? If not done quickly, the prices will climb fast. 」
「Could it be that there’re already signs of that? 」
「The Kingdom itself doesn’t have any obvious movements yet. But for the Empire, medicine and food are already rising in price. 」
At Elma’s question, Michelle explained with an uninterested face.
「Ardis. You went to Reiten right? Are there news about it already? 」
「There wasn’t really any rumors in the town. But Marrieda――, one of my personal acquaintance and a president of a business association seemed to have noticed it. She’s fully utilizing the chance to earn. 」
「My, a merchant must be at least that sensitive, I suppose. ――So, how is it, village chief? It will be better if you stockpiled earlier. 」
Michelle prompted for a decision, as the village chief started to think. Eventually, he came to a decision with a sigh.
「Let’s increase the stockpile. We have considerably more people now than four years ago. There might be unforeseeable events. It’s better to ready for the unknown as much as possible. 」
「But the problem now is funds and transport. About those, how will it be? 」
「Let’s use the funds given by Angel-sama. Angel-sama had allowed it to be used for the entire village. But for transporting……」
The village chief seemed gloomy. Without saying, even Michelle understood the reason.
「Even we have our limits of transporting. On top of that, the route to this village is far from the town and there’s not any straight road. Even if we tried hard, it will take half a month for a round trip. 」
The village chief and the councils all folded their arms and frowned. The problem was the location of the village.
Not just far from any large towns, it’s in the midst of a mountain without any roads, there’s a need to walk between the woods, making using a horse carriage impossible.
Just riding on a horse is difficult too. In the Canobis Mountain Range that is crowded with presences of demonic beings, timid horses wouldn’t dare step forward.
As for utilizing manpower, it will severely limit the capacity. While the villagers were all hugging their heads, Ardis had an idea.
「How about this? Michelle will only have to get to the plains around the mountain, and then we will carry the goods from there on. That would be easier for you guys too right? 」
「Of course, we can use a carriage if we don’t need to enter the mountains. And it will probably take four days per round trip. Right, Ted? 」
「Yeah, if it’s the plains, then at most, only Despairs will come out. 」
However, one of the councils seemed to be troubled.
「No, but……. Isn’t it still impossible for us to carry it here? Even if we have charms from Angel-sama, if we happen to encounter demonic beings while carrying the luggage……」
The council was right too. Ardis as well didn’t have the intention of exposing the villagers without any fighting capabilities to danger.
「Rona and I can carry the luggage till within the barrier. Then there’re no issues right? There’s no danger within the barrier, and Rupus can help out too. 」
「Just Ardis and Rona? I think that it’s still too reckless though. 」
Normally thinking, just Ardis and Rona alone can’t possibly carry more than a carriage.
However, Ardis and Rona both had the technology of 『Gate』 that connects to another world.
By sending the goods to the other world, they can carry more than a carriage easily without actually carrying.
Moreover, the time in the other world is slow. Even fresh vegetables put over there can last a year here. It’s a very precious technique for preservation and transportation.
Receiving the luggage from Michelle and the others on the grasslands, then temporarily sending them across the gate. Once they moved back into the barrier, they can retrieve the items back out, then the villagers can carry the items back to the village.
However, since the villagers are not in the known about the Gate, excluding Rona and Nere, Ardis would like to avoid any companies.
「Well, just leave it to us. We won’t disappoint you. 」
Saying so to the councils who looked a little anxious, Ardis smiled brightly.