The next morning, there was a person that appeared in front of Ardis and the others that are in preparation to depart.
「It’s been a while. Rona-sama, Ardis-san. 」
Someone that would call his gluttonous partner with a sama could only be one person. Knowing who was it without even confirming, Ardis reflexively called out the name.
「Solte huh. 」
「Oh what, Solte is within the refugees as well. 」
Since Rona didn’t need to hide his identity in front of Solte, he’s speaking normally. The morning breeze blew past them.
Her childishness had completely disappeared, Solte who now looks like an adult fixed her cherry blossom hair that was blown apart while answering Rona.
「Yes. I was accompanying Minerva-sama coincidentally. ……Though it was up until the pursuers from the Empire showed up. 」
Was she guilty about only letting Minerva bearing the danger, Solte seemed a little gloomy as she bowed down to Ardis and the others.
「For saving Minerva-sama, allow me to thank you. 」
「It’s not something Solte have to thank for. 」
In the first place, even though already cooled down, Ardis is still now chased as a heretic by the church. For Solte who is on the side of the church, leaving aside her true intentions, even speaking like this with Ardis would be a huge problem.
「Since Solte is here, could it be other church-related people are here too? 」
Ardis asked what he was bothered about.
「No. The people in the church went in all directions……. In this group there’re only two young clergyman other than myself. 」
「Is that so……」
Although he was relieved, Ardis’s reply was short. At the very least, it seems like he doesn’t have to worry about a big fight with the people of the church.
Originally, Solte was relatively well even with Ardis considering she’s a person of the church, if the remaining two are still young, then Elma alone would probably be able to do something.
「So what about Solte? Will you head north together with us? 」
「Yes, I think so……. There’s not other choices, I’m afraid. 」
The light red eyes seemed a little gloomy.
「Yes, what is it? 」
「Since we’re not totally strangers, I will let you know earlier. 」
Since Ardis has no reason to hate Solte personally, he doesn’t see the need to exclude her.
However, if her beliefs in the church are still very deep, then there’s a possibility that she will go against Ardis in the future.
「Currently, the church is my enemy. 」
Solte looked a little painful on her face.
「I don’t believe in the Goddess as well. 」
「However, what I don’t acknowledge is the current church and the Goddess. 」
「……What do you mean? 」
Without answering Solte’s question, Ardis said only what he wanted to say.
「There’s a priest believing in the Goddess at where I’m living now, although it’s small, there’s still a church. However, the settlement where we are heading now probably doesn’t yet have a priest. That’s why, I plan to call over a priest from my village. 」
「Is that…… possibly the illegitimate church that the central church regards as? 」
「I don’t care if it’s acknowledged by the central church or not. But at the very least, Elma is someone that believes in the Goddess, and a clergyman that upholds the teachings. 」
「……And what do you imply me to do? 」
「The Goddess that Elma believes in is different from the current Goddess that the church believes in. Without hate for the twins, no need to force anyone to believe, not with the arrogance to brand others as heretics if they don’t listen. You can choose to accept it, or if not…… I won’t force you to, but you will have to choose wherever else to go. 」
「Wherever in this situation, that’s very much………」
Did she think about the two young apprentice, Solte’s expression turned dark.
「Sorry but I’m not a saint. In the first place, it was the church that made me an enemy first. I saved Minerva and the others because of a personal reason, the refugees are along the way, and there’s no reason at all for me to save the church’s believers. To be honest, if you still want stick to the current doctrine, do it yourself without my knowledge.」
「……Can I meet the priest Elma you spoke of, and only make a decision then? 」
「Yeah, I don’t mind. But don’t tell the other two about it yet. 」
「There’s no need to be worried. It’s not like Elma worships the Evil God or anything. Rather, it’s much better than the Goddess that you lots――」
「Rona, enough. Solte will decide that by herself. 」
Ardis put a stop to Rona who was running his mouth needlessly. It was obvious that he was gonna diss that woman if he goes on.
「Really? Well whatever. 」
Rona who got himself back approached Solte.
「Either way, I’m glad that Solte is alright. We can’t help you if we don’t even know where you are. Until we arrive at the settlement, I will protect Solte and Minerva too. 」
「Thank you. Rona-sama. 」
After the short time of reunion, Ardis and the others started moving again to the north. However, the group was reaching three thousand, all of them are also refugees that aren’t used to travelling.
Even moving along was difficult, and naturally, forming an orderly group was impossible. So the group had a long tail.
It was necessary to place some people at the head to lead, and also some at the end in case there’s a need to deal with pursuers if the Empire sent them.
In the end, Minerva and the others took the front of the group, and Rona as well is there for guiding. Moore and Solte also included there.
And naturally, that places Ardis himself at the end of the line, to deal with any pursuers that shows up.
Although it’s impossible thinking that one person could fight against pursuers of the Empire, it was Ardis after all, no one was opposing the idea.
「What a nice weather……」
If it wasn’t for the situation, it was a sunny day good for an enjoyable picnic. If taking a nap on the grasslands while sunbathing, it must be comfortable.
Ardis held his yawn back while watching the group of refugees in front. The head of the group was so far ahead that they are not even in his range of mana detection, they couldn’t even be seen.
「You look quite casual. 」
It was someone that voiced out to Ardis from the side.
「I’m looking out properly too. 」
Originally, it was Ardis alone that took up this role. However, it would be a problem since if something happened and Ardis had to leave his spot, the end of the line will be vulnerable.
That’s why, excluding Ardis, there were another few refugees volunteers that are with Ardis as his messengers and assistants. The person that called out to him was a female magician with slanted eyes.
「Ah, it’s not like I’m complaining. 」
Hearing Ardis’s excuse, the female magician corrected herself.
「I came to know your strength four years ago after all. 」
It seems like she knew about himself. Four years ago was the year of the war with the Empire.
She could’ve been participating as a mercenary and have seen Ardis then. Orange tinged hair that has a little curl at the end and dark grey eyes.
While looking at the female magician that had thin lips and small nose, Ardis was trying to recall.
While Ardis recalled several younger magicians during the time he was still in the mercenary band, the female magician instead spoke what happened then.
「Four years ago, I was conscripted as a student in the war. I was saved by you when we were surrounded by the enemies but, I guess…… you don’t remember me. 」
Ardis was convinced when she revealed that she was one of the students there. Certainly, considering the female magician’s age, she would more likely be a student of the Mariules Academy than a mercenary.
「Is it easier to understand if I say that I was Kyrill’s classmate? 」
Hearing a nostalgic name, Ardis finally got enough clues to dig from his memories. There were four other students there when he saved Kyrill.
Among them, there was certainly a girl that looked quite hard faced.
「Come to think of it, I think I remember……. Though it’s been four years already, you look different. 」
Ardis made an excuse to the former student that looked like an adult now, but it seems like she wasn’t very much impressed.
「It is you that doesn’t change at all. I heard from Kyrill before but, your age really doesn’t show. It’s a little enviable. 」
Ardis thought that the female magician is still young but, it’s not like he’s going to say it.
Orphellia who had been an acquaintance for the past ten years was also complaining at Ardis recently about that.
However, it wasn’t Ardis’s intention for his age to not show either, and it’s not like it was Ardis’s fault that Orphellia’s looks are changing because of her age. It’s not even Ardis’s fault but still, Orphellia who felt the drag of her aging skin could not stand it.
Norris was the same in that sense that his age doesn’t show well but, whenever he felt Orphellia was about to mention it, he would disappear like a mist. And so, Ted was always receiving her grumbles.
Ardis who was thinking unnecessary things returned his focus to the female magician.
「Could it be, Kyrill is in this group too? 」
He was bothered about Kyrill. He didn’t even realize Solte was here till this morning. If Kyrill is in this group, then he might’ve not noticed it either.
「No. Kyrill had graduated from the academy early and returned to Reiten. Even though he said about being a friend, he went and skipped grades and quickly graduated, what a terrible story right? Even Rai said something about his family matters and quitted in the middle……」
The female magician explained that Kyrill had already left the capital long ago, and then started grumbling.
「But thanks to that, he’s not involved in this situation, so it’s not something that terrible in the end. 」
Although grumbling, it seems like she was smiling a little thinking about her friend’s safety, while Ardis consoled her as well.
「Well, you will meet him again as long as you survive. 」
「Ah, no…… that! It’s not like I’m thinking about meeting Kyrill――」
Just as she was spouting nonsense panickily, the female magician seemed to realize something as she suddenly seemed awkward.
「Sorry. Come to think of it, I haven’t named myself. 」
Ardis as well realized that he hasn’t known the name of the female magician. Though, for Ardis she is only Kyrill’s classmate. There’s no need to know her name at all but, it seems like the person herself is mindful of it.
Pinching the hem of her robe with both hands, she lowered herself a little, showing a noble lady’s courtesy.
「Magician affiliated with Mariules Academy, Ellenoa. Nice to meet you. 」
「Yeah, nice to meet you too. 」
Just as Ardis replied to Ellenoa who introduced herself, there was a cry from the refugees.