After regrouping and sharing their findings, Ardis, Riana and Sharu left the capital on the same day.
Depending on the situation, staying in the capital for a few days could’ve been a choice but, judging that the war might start soon, Ardis decided to return to the village first.
With the sun just a little past over head while they headed north from the capital, and seeing that there’s no one else nearby, Ardis started flying again after carrying Riana and Sharu.
They will probably arrive in the village by twilight.
「…… There’s something there. 」
While flying across the sky with no obstacles towards the Canobis Mountain, after they crossed about half of the journey, Sharu seemed to notice something small running across the grasslands.
「Could it be, a group of beasts? 」
Riana raised a very plausible interpretation but, it’s not like Ardis high in the sky could sense mana so far down.
What they could confirm at that distance were just a few dots in a group moving in the same direction.
However, considering a group of beasts, there’re too many. What was strange too is their direction is the same as where they’re currently heading to.
It looked like the group at the front was getting pursued, since Ardis is moving faster, their distance is closing.
Eventually, Ardis could make out that the dots from before are people riding on horses.
At the same time, he noticed there’re several familiar faces in the group that was being pursued.
「Ted and Norris? Then the one with the robe is Orphellia? 」
It seems like the group that was being chased included the members of 『Bright Stars of White Night』, which recently became Michelle’s designated escorts.
Including them, there’re about eight people riding on horses. And the one chasing them are also a group of horse riders.
However, the pursuers had more than one fold of the pursued.
Contrary to the ones getting pursued wearing all kinds of getup, the pursuers all had the same appearance. Seeing their outfit, Ardis unintentionally cringed.
「Thoria’s soldiers huh. 」
Although he didn’t know what was going on, it seems like horses of both sides didn’t seem very energetic.
They must’ve ran for a long distance already. Even if Ardis’s speed in the air is fast, he couldn’t match a horse’s full sprinting speed.
However, seeing how he’s gaining on them, it seems like the horses are already near their limits.
Occasionally, Norris would skillfully twist his upper body around and shoot a few arrows but, it isn’t like the arrows that was shot from a bow that wasn’t made specially for riding on horse could have power.
The speed of the chase didn’t change, probably because the Thoria soldiers knew about their horses as well.
「It’s a bit unclear but……」
One side were the familiar faces that delivered supplies to the village periodically, and another is the Thoria army that Ardis has bad experience with.
There’s no need to think who to help. While carrying Riana and Sharu, Ardis flew directly above the soldiers pursuing, and casted arts to stop them.
Using a perfect timing that wouldn’t hit Ted and the others that are on the run, Ardis created ice on the ground, scaring the horses, then immediately raised an earth wall directly ahead of them.
The soldiers immediately stopped their horses seeing the earthen wall, and then was assaulted by intense sandstorm, blinding them, after leaving them at a confused state, Ardis caught up with Ted and the others.
As expected, it seems like their horses are near their limits, as their running speed is quite slow, Ardis easily caught up with them.
Scouting out the situation for a while, and verifying that the pursuers stopped, Ardis landed on the ground, and approached Ted and the others that rested the horses hiding behind trees.
「Isn’t it Ardis! 」
Ted who was on the lookout at the surroundings immediately found Ardis.
「It seems like they’re pursuing you but, what’s up with that? They’re from Thoria right? 」
「Yeah, so it was you that stopped them huh. 」
Realizing that it was thanks to Ardis that they gotten out, Ted thanked him.
「Well, ask for the details from Michelle. It’s not like I know about it either. 」
「Even though you were running away? 」
「I mean, they were chasing with that hostility, it’s normal to feel danger though. 」
It seems like it was quite a tense situation.
「We sure met at a strange place. You even have the little miss with you. 」
As they followed Ted into their resting spot, Orphellia along with Michelle came out to greet.
「Ah, Ardis. I, I will be looking out for any pursuers. 」
Seeing Orphellia, Riana quickly climbed up a tree.
「Sharu too. 」
Sharu who received Ardis’s request put down the baggage on her back and followed after Riana, disappearing in the trees.
「I never seen that child before. Is she from the village? 」
「Yeah, she normally doesn’t show herself but. Since her eyes is good, being a lookout is just nice for her. 」
It seems like Michelle didn’t recognize her.
It’s not like she doesn’t ever set foot outside her house but, it seems like Sharu still had her habit of moving around stealthily, so there weren’t many people in the village that knew about Sharu.
「Well, there’s Norris up there as well, they would surely notice if there’s still any pursuers. 」
After Orphellia’s words, Ted revealed the information he just learnt.
「It was Ardis that stopped them just now. 」
「Just when I wondered who……, it was Ardis huh. 」
Hearing the explanation, Orphellia was convinced. It seems like she understood that a third party assisted them in shaking off their pursuers.
「Anyways, why were the Thoria soldiers chasing you? 」
Hearing Ardis’s question, Michelle sighed deeply.
「That, you see――」
According to Michelle who started explaining in a heavy tone, it seems like it started from when they encountered the Thoria army when they were moving down the highway.
「I mean, I knew that there’re various territorial armies heading to the border in preparation for the war. So it’s not like meeting them on the highway is anything strange. Even having armies buying supplies from peddlers to restock isn’t unheard of. For us, it wasn’t ideal to have our supplies intended for the village reduced but, we will be going against them if we aren’t willing. They won’t take everything, and they will pay it above market price anyways. Well, I thought it isn’t the worst thing to happen, so I provided half of our supplies to them. 」
Until there, there wasn’t any problem. However, Michelle’s story naturally hasn’t ended.
「Then the problem happened after that. It was just about when the twilight sky was about to turn into night, we and the Thoria army set up camps there. The exact time isn’t clear but, there was a young soldier that came to us in the night. What do you think his business was? 」
「……A demonic being attacking, or something? 」
「That would’ve been better. That soldier, he asked us to deliver a message to his family with a sad expression. 」
「A message? Doesn’t sound strange to me though……」
It’s not rare to hear people asking a peddler to deliver a message by paying money. After all, a soldier serving far away from his home only have few ways to contact his family.
However, Michelle and the others are heading towards north of the capital, it was the opposite of the direction towards the capital, where the soldier’s supposed family is at.
Regarding that, the soldier might’ve not known about where Michelle and the others were heading, so it can’t be helped.
But coming all the way out in the night to a peddler to request that is a little strange.
「What if the content of the message was 『Run from the capital immediately』? 」
「Run? ……That’s certainly strange. 」
Ardis frowned hearing the message that the soldier had from Michelle. The capital is in an abnormal state currently.
Although the Empire army hasn’t crossed the border yet, if the war started, the capital can’t be guaranteed a safe place.
However, it’s not like the Kingdom would allow the Empire to march into the capital with no resistance.
In fact, the Thoria army is now marching there for the sake of protecting the capital.
According to Chezare’s information, it will be about two thousand five hundred soldiers in the capital if including Thoria’s.
Although it’s not considered enough at all, it’s also not a small amount of people defending.
Either way, even if there’s fear of getting involved in the flames of war, it’s probably still not a situation that grave that a moment can’t be spared.
「Well, in the end, we refused the soldier’s request but, after that, the escorts noticed the disturbing atmosphere. 」
「It was Norris that noticed first. The Thoria army seemed like, a little tense? Anyways, it didn’t felt fitting for soldiers marching within their own country. 」
Ted continued Michelle’s words. The members of 『Bright Stars of White Night』 would know the atmosphere of a battlefield having survived the war four years ago. Naturally, they would be sensitive to the hostility directed towards them.
「And then seeing that the soldiers surrounded our carriage and tent from a distance, everyone at that point agreed that it’s no longer a situation we can listen to them. And so we jumped on the horse and charged through. 」
If we stayed like that, there’s no doubt we would be captured, or even killed in the worst case, as Michelle concluded as such.
Hearing that much, Ardis finally vaguely grasped the situation that had fallen on Michelle and the others.
「So that’s why the carriage isn’t here huh……. But why so suddenly? They weren’t like that during the day right? 」
「That’s right. If they were like that from the start, no way we would’ve let them near our camp. 」
Ted said for a fact at Ardis’s question.
「The situation isn’t yet clear but, it might be better for you to stay in the village until some time passes. 」
「That might be the case. Since we don’t know why we were chased, it’s better not to stand out. Sorry for the troubles. 」
Michelle’s supplies would be cut. However, the village is self-sufficient from the start.
Only limited expendable goods such as salt and medicine are relied on outside source.
What they had already carried to the village thus far would probably last them half a year.
If push comes to shove, Ardis and Rona had the hidden card of using 『Gate』 to transport the cargo.
After that, while waiting the horses to regain their breath, the party looked out for pursuers, while heading north.
With no pursuers from before showing up, Ardis and the others entered the Canobis Mountain Range from the forest uneventfully.