The next morning, he woke up to foreign presences. A danger alert in his head rung as soon as he woke up.
It’s a wasteland where there’s not a single creature in sight in day or night. And someone is now here.
In other words, it’s unlikely to be anyone else other than the pursuers that’s looking for himself and the girl.
He looked at the girl within his arms. The light of the morning sun bounced off the surface of the boulder, and illuminated the girl’s face.
She still looked like suffering. Although she looks much better than in the night, even so, her shivering had not stopped.
As the girl has not regained her consciousness yet, the choices he has is limited.
Whether they get caught obediently, or he escapes by himself leaving the girl there, or becoming a decoy by himself and leaving the girl there.
The first choice is out of the question. And naturally, the second choice is not logical either.
Leaving aside when they first escaped, now that taking the girl to a settlement safely is the only reason of existence he has now, abandoning her will equate to denying his own existence.
The third is not logical either. In the first place, there’s nothing guaranteeing that the girl won’t get found, and also even if he’s lucky, and she isn’t discovered, it’s strange to think that she can even live another day by herself judging by her condition.
Moving silently while the girl is still in his arms, he moved to a position opposite to the directions of the footsteps.
Although changing his position by a little doesn’t mean much, he thought to reduce the chances of getting discovered even if it’s tiny.
What he can do now is to hope that the footsteps thought to be pursuers head for another direction without discovering themselves.
However, going against his wish, the footsteps are certainly nearing the boulder where he and the girl are hiding.
「Four…… five of them? 」
His face turned ugly. He might be able to do something if there’re lesser of them.
Ambushing one of them, and facing from the front for another.
That’s the limit of what he can do. However, the footsteps approaching them is not just one or two.
Even if he tried ambushing them, it’s over the moment the remaining enemies surround him.
「Yeah, there’s certainly two of them……, though it’s really weak. 」
「Could they be spies from the Empire? 」
「If they’re spies, they can at least hide themselves, dumbass. 」
「Some wild beast…… guess not. 」
「Well, even if it’s a wasteland here, it’s not like it’s totally impossible but, there’s no reason for them to come here of all places right. 」
He heard multiple voices. All the voices sounded like rugged men.
From the content of their conversation, it’s clear that they know his own and the girl’s presence there.
「Seriously, you guys don’t have any nervousness. 」
「Either way, we will know once we see. 」
「Getting so arrogant saying an obvious thing. 」
「Aaah? Are you picking a fight!? 」
Thinking that it’s the end, he bit his lips.
Being treated as an experiment guinea pig while not knowing why, with many coincidences and luck, managing to get out of the facility thanks to his own wits, in the end, never getting the freedom he wanted, and couldn’t even help a lone girl.
Powerlessness and regret drowned him.
「You guys, keep it at that much. 」
A clear voice reverberated condemning the noisy men. Although the tone was relatively quiet, there was a compelling pressure in his voice.
And suddenly, the voices between the arguing men died out completely.
「Two of you go from the right, one stay here. 」
The same voice instructed the others. The footsteps split into two. It’s evident that he cannot escape now.
He took out the last small knife he had keeping in the pocket of the coat that is now covering the girl. Laying down the girl as if handling something fragile, he put up a stance quietly.
The footsteps are getting nearer. He gripped the knife in his hand tighter. The shadows of the men are right by the corner.
The moment that the first face showed up from the other side of the boulder, he jumped out with all his might.
It was a young man covered in a purple coat that he first saw. Aiming for his neck, he swung the knife.
However, the knife never reached the man that was surprised, but hit something hard and deflected away. A sensation of having hit something solid came through his hands.
The enemies looked calm despite getting attacked. They only had an expression that looked a tiny bit surprised.
Knowing his failure, he immediately moved to his next step. Glancing over quickly, he moved his target away from the five men and to the lone one.
A man in the thirties with short hair. It’s likely the man that scolded the others earlier. Identifying that he’s the one taking command of the group, he ignored the others and jumped there.
After getting one of them by surprise, aim for the head of the group. That was the most logical choice that he thought of.
But now that his first move failed, the remaining chance he has depends on whether he can capture that man.
Capturing the leader of the enemies, he can take him as a hostage and make them go away. Although the enemies might not negotiate, he hasn’t found any better choice other than this considering the unconscious girl.
「Heeh, this guy is――」
The leader seemed to grin interestedly towards him who ignored everyone else. His arm gripping the knife extended.
The blade is aimed towards the stomach, just when the distance was close enough, something hard hit behind his head.
The vision that turned dark as if night suddenly visited. His body lost control. While that happened, the man’s intrigued words were what he heard last.
「Interesting fellow. 」
By the time he regained his consciousness, it was not a bright sun or blue sky that he first saw. As he recognized that was a ceiling of some sort made from fabric, he realized that he was lying down.
He was stupefied for a moment not able to grasp the situation but, he soon recalled what happened before he passed out.
「We were…… captured」
Despite betting the tiniest chance and attacked the man thought to be pursuers, he was taken down easily. It’s likely this tent is what the men use too.
However, thinking about it, it was unnatural. The first thing is that he’s not restrained. Normally thinking, it’s obvious to get restrained if he’s been caught.
Not seeing any signs of him getting tortured, other than the pain still residing behind his head, there was no other discomfort.
After verifying his own conditions, he suddenly realized.
「That girl……!? 」
Looking around in a panic, he saw no one. Just as he was about to get up and leave the tent, there was a voice stopping him.
「Getting energetic is fine and all but go sleep. You’re really weak now. 」
Along with a voice, one man entered the tent. Seeing his appearance, he immediately tightened up.
A short hair, well-proportioned body with supple muscles, and a purple cloak, it was the face of the leader that he tried to attack at the last moment.
Immediately, he looked left and right for any weapon.
「Obviously, there’s no way I left any weapons around you. 」
Seeing his reaction, the man said so stunned, before snorting and continuing.
「By the way, with how amateurish you are, don’t think that you can win against me. There’re no idiots around here that will lose to a little brat that don’t even know how to fight. 」
Those words didn’t have a sliver of fakery or lie. After all, he himself had experienced the vast difference in strength.
His amateurish attack on the man was immediately stopped, and he was incapacitated in one strike. While aware of the pain of his life grasped by him, he asked the one thing he was concerned.
「That girl…… where is she? 」
「Don’t be so alerted. No need to worry, we didn’t hurt that little miss anywhere. Someone is looking after her now. She hasn’t woken yet but, she should be fine when the heat goes down. 」
「…………Let me meet her. 」
「Be patient I said. I don’t know who are you guys but, I won’t be doing anything. 」
He reacted to those words. If what the man said 『I don’t know who are you guys』 is the truth, then they are not the pursuers.
Though in any case, there’s no way he can trust them easily. After all, he had no way to verify if the man spoke the truth.
「I will see for myself. 」
Still intending to see the girl, he glanced at the entrance of the tent that the man entered from. The man sighed.
「As I said――」
Seeing that opening, he tried to sprint out the tent running past the man.
「――Not now. 」
However, before he could even step out of the tent, the man stopped him by grabbing onto his clothes. Then the next moment, his vision overturned again.
A dull impact onto his back. He was on the ground by the time he noticed. It was after that he understood he was thrown onto the ground.
「You’re still in quite the dangerous state. I know that girl is important to you but, stay still and prioritize recovering yourself first. 」
Leaving that behind, the man left the tent.