Even while frowning at Marrieda who seemed to be planning something bad, Ardis decided to accept the offer. Just Ardis and Michelle would not be enough to procure a huge amount of food.
It’s a totally different scale from providing spices or other stuff to the almost self-sufficient hidden village.
It’s necessary to procure food through some organization for the daily consumption of three thousand people and, Ardis had no other leads than Marrieda’s company now.
Selling the food in a set price for half a year and buying the Heavy Iron ores from Ardis, it’s quite a reasonable condition.
Thinking about the time needed to transport the food through the Gate, even Ardis would not have time for this and that.
「Well then, it’s settled. 」
The talk ended without anything happening especially. The escort period is ten days.
Even Ardis didn’t plan to get bound to a contract for too long. However, it was fine since Marrieda also needs some time to get the food.
Moreover, it’s not like the promised time to transport the food over to Rona at the Glock village is today or tomorrow.
Either way, since he needed to stay several days at Reiten, there wasn’t any problem for him.
Deeming the negotiation is over, Nicole who had been staying quiet behind Marrieda stepped out and stretched his hand.
「Glad to have you, Ardis. I can rest easy if you’re with us. 」
Ardis who similarly stretched his hand out for a shake asked just in case.
「That, are you serious? 」
「Nope, but I hope so. 」
「Thought so. 」
The two smiled bitterly as they withdrew their hands. Since it’s an awfully suspicious request from Marrieda, it’s undoubtedly something regarding her prophetic dreams.
During the escort period, Ardis and Nicole both already threw away the hope of nothing would happen.
「But again, you really look unchanged for your age. How old are you again now? 」
「Who knows, I don’t really know now. 」
「Was it…… eight years ago that we first met? Certainly, that time you looked like a runaway mercenary but……. You don’t really look eight years older now. 」
「I get that a lot. However, it’s better not to mention it in presence of a girl. A female magician I know would strangle me whenever it was mentioned. 」
Recalling the magician, Orphellia who was sensitive to the topic of age, Marrieda, the only female in the room now interjected.
「Ardis-kun? Are you hinting that I’m getting older~nii? 」
Getting glared with a strange pressure, Ardis shifted the blame over to Nicole.
「Hahaha. That seems to be right. 」
「Don’t worry Ojou. Age doesn’t matter, Ojou is still a pretty woman. So much so that I might even marry you now. 」
A spear tip was aimed at the laughing Nicole but, his words rendered Marrieda’s ears red.
「Wha……! Nicole…… you, what are you……! 」
Disregarding such Marrieda, Nicole changed to another topic facing Ardis.
「Leaving that aside, you’re staying low right now right? 」
「Staying low……. Well, I’m living in a remote village. 」
Currently, Ardis’s living quarters is located in the village within the Canobis Mountain Range.
Although he frequents to the Glock village recently, Ardis didn’t involve himself much other than matters regarding food.
There was already a self-governing body forming at the Glock village between the refugees.
The center of it is the Duke Nyrestia house and its members. The representatives from the miners that were originally at the Glock village, Elma who represents the clergyman from the hidden village, and several influencers from the Nyrestia territory and the capital.
What was surprising is among the refugees, there were the owners of 『Seseragi Inn』, the inn that Ardis frequents in the capital. Owners of Seseragi Inn in other words, the signboard girl, Melir and her father.
Seeing the two’s figure among the refugees since two years, Ardis felt a little nostalgic strangely.
From what he heard, they were apparently saved by Minerva’s party, and the father also got wounded but healed by Solte.
Ardis himself has no intention to touch the governing of the Glock village. What he only wants is Elma to be accepted as the priest, and a warehouse where the villagers are forbidden to enter for the food.
「Fu――n, I see. If you can’t find a place to settle down, then tell me. I have some connections in Calves. I think I can get you a citizenship at the very least. 」
「Calves? In the Coalition? 」
「Yeah, I’m from Calves. 」
Calves is the city in the Coalition that has the most population and milliary power. It is one of the most successful cities among the Coalition, and they are considered the position of the Coalition ally master.
However, it’s located quite west of the continent, meaning that the church’s influence there is incomparably greater than Reiten.
For Ardis who is considered an enemy by the church, it’s unlikely that he can live peacefully there.
「Alright, I will keep that in mind. I might ask you when I need it. 」
But in any case, there’s no need to reject his goodwill now, as Ardis replied affirmatively.
「Ou, leave it to me. 」
And so, Ardis had started his ten-day-long job as Marrieda’s escort.
During the escort period, Ardis’s place of sleep is the guest room on the second floor of the association’s building.
In the late night when people are normally sleeping, Ardis opened the window and called out the girl’s name.
「I’m here. 」
The words returned from the darkness are short. Then, a girl that looked like a normal town girl that can be found anywhere appeared.
Despite it being the second floor of the building, she entered from the window like it’s nothing.
「Did you find anything nice at the stalls? 」
「……The rabbit pie wrap was the greatest. Also, the wheat noodles with eastern spice broth was also a delicacy. 」
「I see. Then I must get them while I’m here huh. 」
Smiling bitterly at Sharu, Ardis was quite intrigued by the recommendation of the girl that became quite the gourmet eater in the last two years.
「And, did you find out anything about Reiten’s grasp on the Empire’s movements? 」
「They are on guard. But even if they are, the power balance is too unfavored for them. The stronger opinion is winning is impossible. 」
「Well, I expected so I guess. 」
For the time being, the Empire hasn’t reached its hands out of the Kingdom. Although they left Thoria who declared their independence, they are moving to invade all the land around the seashore.
Making enemies with another country now would be a political bad move, and even if they wanted, they have no room as they are busy with settling down their new territory.
The Empire should be prioritizing on colonizing and stabilizing the new land that they got from the old Nagras Kingdom.
However, it is undeniable that such thoughts are just them being optimistic. There is no guarantee anywhere that the Empire would abstain from riding on the momentum and start invading the Coalition.
Ardis thought it was probable since Ardis was recruited as an escort by Marrieda.
「Can you investigate on the pretense that the Empire will invade? 」
「Investigate what? 」
「Reiten’s defensive measure. Also, whether the nobles had been preparing to escape or not. 」
「If they know winning is impossible, they would be preparing to escape when the time needs it. We will know how great is Reiten in obtaining information from their preparation progress. 」
「……Everyone is impossible. 」
「Two or three high ranking nobles with bad reputation will do. 」
Sharu who nodded suddenly looked over at the wooden door of the room. Ardis similarly looked over there but, he already knew the presence approaching the room from long ago.
The soft footsteps stopped outside the door, and knocking sounds reverberated inside the room.
Waving stop to Sharu who was going to leave, Ardis responded 「It’s unlocked」 while illuminating the room with a magic light.
「Sorry for disturbing your rest. There’s something I want to ask……」
While saying so, the person that opened the door stopped his words as he saw Sharu.
「What’s up Nicole? 」
「Ah――, no……. Huh? My mistake? Were you perhaps doing something? 」
「I don’t know what mistake you did but, this guy is my company. She’s Sharu. I brought her with me to gather information. 」
「Aah…… I see. …………Uhh, is it a good occasion? 」
Nicole who seemed convinced for a moment once again asked Ardis.
「It’s fine. Sharu met Marrieda as well, and she’s doing some other matter that’s unrelated to the escort. 」
「Then you could’ve mentioned it to Ojou from the start. You’re paying her accommodation fees right. 」
「Then Marrieda would use me for this and that because of the accommodation fee though. 」
「That’s true. 」
Nicole who knew Marrieda’s personality well expressed her understanding.
「So, what do you want to ask? 」
「Ah―. What I wanted to ask was already answered anyways. 」
It’s likely that what Nicole wanted to ask was the intruder in Ardis’s room, in other words, about Sharu.
Since Ardis had revealed her without hiding anything, then his question had already been answered.
「And so Ojou-chan. I’m Nicole. Nice to have you here with us. 」
「It’s not like we will meet again. 」
Sharu’s response wasn’t great towards Nicole who was being friendly.
「Uwaa, so cold. 」
Nicole shrugged purposefully.
「Well then, I will excuse myself. Sorry for disturbing this late. 」
Leaving as his business was finished, he left while raising one of his hand.
The next day, Ardis followed Marrieda around as an escort, and walked around Reiten’s center market.
「The price had gone up a little~n. 」
Just like Marrieda said, starting from rations, all other goods had risen in price.
It’s still considered better than the old Kingdom’s territory that is now occupied by the Empire. Even so, it’s undeniable that the prices are going up.
「It’s safe to assume that it will continue to rise huh? 」
「Yeah――. Until the chaos within the old Kingdom settles down, it will probably continue to rise. 」
Marrieda continued with her usual tone as Ardis was clicking his tongue.
「Well, if you properly act as an escort, then rest easy, I can pay for the inflated portion of the price yo~n. 」
「It might get really pricy though, are you sure? 」
Marrieda had set the price of a month’s ration as a hundred eighty gold coins. However, if the prices continues to go up, the price difference can be expected much greater three or five months in the future.
It would be a bankruptcy if mishandled.
「It’s awight, it’s awight. 」
「What the heck are you going to make me do, seriously……」
Marrieda is a merchant. On top of that, she’s the president of one of the biggest shop in Reiten.
And such a person like her is eating into her own savings to request help from Ardis.
In other words, Marrieda is going to face a difficult situation that requires Ardis’s capabilities, or rather an enemy.
Thinking about the possibilities, it would be the Empire’s invasion into the Coalition.
However, she had already denied the involvement of the Empire.
If that’s the case――, she might tell him to guard every asset of the business association and not just the lives of her employees.
With no clear purpose to his role, five days had passed. And as expected, the war flames approached without any precursor.
Ships appeared on the shoreline south of Reiten and the soldiers landed. The army started marching as they got into a formation, and moved north to Reiten.
Their numbers are around five thousand. However, the army that was heading towards Reiten, was in fact not carrying the flag of the Empire.