Half a month had passed since Ardis and Luciel were picked up by the mercenary band.
According to Greyth, the Captain, the Wisteria mercenary band will camp for a few days before heading for their next job.
Since it was a schedule with plenty of room, their distance covered each day was not much.
Moving when the sun is out, preparing the camp when the sun is overhead, and the remaining time is used on training. The days repeated so.
The unfamiliar lifesyle was a little confusing at first but, at the very least, Ardis appreciates that there is no need to worry about shelter and food.
Ardis had a prejudice that mercenary bands would be like a clique but it seems like his precognition was broken in both good and bad ways.
「Ooh, the newbies that Captain mentioned? 」
「They’re still growing. Ain’t it normal to be like that? 」
「But that’s still too thin. There’s no meat at all. 」
「You’re a bother to our training. Quickly go that way already if you have no other business. 」
「What’s that attitude. Isn’t Victor only here to trouble the newbies? 」
「That’s my line. Do you think I’m a person to bully children? 」
「Of course not with that crafty personality. Though, it seems like you like to do that unknowingly. 」
「How noisy. Then shall I knowingly help you train too? 」
「Oops, spare me from that. 」
The mercenaries came to peek on Ardis and Luciel occasionally with various reasoning. Though, it seems like they are just purely being curious, and did not come with any special intents.
Both Victor and Lexy had been chasing away the interested gazes that had been directed to them.
There were no exclusion of the newbies, many of them just talked with Ardis and tapped on Ardis’s head before going their ways.
Although being treated like a child peeved Ardis a little, he felt a lifestyle of not worrying pursuers is more precious than that.
Having obtained a safe shelter, Luciel’s expression turned brighter as well. Wisteria has more females than other mercenary bands, including Lexy, there’re about twenty female mercenaries.
Having people of the same gender by her side probably helped her a lot in getting used to the environment.
Not only during training, the female mercenaries would gather and chat even after meals and before sleep as long as they have time.
Luciel at first who was pulled into their circle was nervous and only managed to observe them but, eventually, the ice was broken, and her expression softened.
「Good work Ardis. How about some water? 」
There was a black-haired girl looking at Ardis who was on the ground after getting wrung by Victor.
Nodding instead of a reply as he couldn’t even utter a word while gasping for air, Luciel offered a wooden cup.
She had probably brought water for Ardis specially. Getting back up with his heavy body, he grabbed and drank all of it in one breath.
「You’re welcome. 」
Ardis managed to squeeze out his appreciation, and Luciel replied with a smile.
Since their instructors are different, as well as their tent, the time Ardis and Luciel spend together is much shorter than before.
Of course, the time before was only when they were escaping from their pursuers. Compared to spending all day together, their current situation can be considered more normal.
At first, Luciel was afraid of the unfamiliar and tough looking men that is the majority but, luckily there’re quite a few women in the band too, thanks to them looking after her, she was able to learn to socialize with the others after a while.
She can now totally hit it off with the other female mercenaries, and can even converse with the Captain and Victor fairly well.
She’s the complete opposite of Ardis who only replies to mercenaries that talks to him. Luciel sat down beside Ardis.
「His training looks really harsh. Not stopping until you’re all beaten up. 」
「You’re receiving training from Lexy too right? I think it’s the same though. 」
Although finally calming his breath down, Ardis gave up trying to make water like he did in the wasteland.
It needs considerable concentration, but currently, his body is too tired that he felt instinctively that he can’t do it.
「Lexy-san and Victor-san are different. 『What Victor doing is not even an introduction, but actually a drill』, that’s what Lexy-san said. Not something that new mercenaries can handle apparently. 」
「Tch. No wonder…… 」
He had thought that Victor’s introduction’s difficulty is quite harsh, but he finally understood. After that, Ardis and Luciel continued their idle chatter for a while.
Although there are various grinning and cold gazes from the surrounding training mercenaries, for Ardis, it’s definitely not a period he considers wasted.
The reason why Ardis who has an atmosphere of isolating himself from others hasn’t been excluded from the mercenary band, for better or for worse, is probably thanks to Luciel establishing a position in the band herself.
「See you later. 」
Luciel who stood up said so with a smile before leaving. Then, there’re voices left and right calling out to her.
Currently, Luciel has a greater presence within the band compared to Ardis. Perhaps most members think Ardis as merely an accessory to Luciel.
Escaping from the facility, running in the mountains, crossing the wasteland, Ardis was a lifeline for Luciel. After all, Luciel at that time was powerless and had nothing to rely on.
However, now that she had been accepted into the group, Ardis is no longer an essential existence for her.
If she can be well with other humans, then it can be said as his role is over. Ardis thought it as so.
Although he felt a little lonely, it’s not all that bad if he thought about his accomplishment as a meaning to his existence.
If the mercenary band can be a place for her, then that’s fine. But if that’s not the case, he can just help her until she gets a place to settle down in a town.
Thinking until there, Ardis smiled bitterly at himself. It’s like――
「I’m wishing to be together with her or something. 」
He stared at his own feelings that he hadn’t been aware of until then. The pain of getting left behind.
In the end, he felt miserable at himself of a pathetic man striving to pretend as a human by immersing in self-satisfaction.
The days continued sticking to a dull attitude, to not let Luciel realize his feelings. Few days later, the band arrived at their destination――, a battlefield.
「You two are not an official member yet. That’s why you will be stationed at the safest place but――」
The day before participating in the war, Greyth, the Captain summoned Ardis and Luciel and said.
「There’s no absolute safe place in a battlefield. Getting found by enemy scouts or flanking soldiers are not impossible. Remember this. 」
There’re also non-combatants in the band. Official workers, cooks, or other specialist are in the band too.
However, they are familiar with holding a weapon to a certain extent, and even participated in training sometimes.
Even as non-combatants, they can at least hold a weapon and fight if they need to.
However, as their strength can’t possibly match someone who lives by fighting, they are normally stationed furthest from the frontline and only focus on protecting themselves.
Ardis and Luciel are both young, and aren’t official members yet, and so both of them are stationed in the back.
As the majority of the members headed into the battlefield to fight, the remaining moved to the mountains to minimize the risk of getting involved.
「Anxious? Well, I can’t guarantee that it’s gonna be fine without any grounds but, I don’t think there’s any problem if we are this far from the main frontline. Of course, being alert is still important. 」
It seems like Ardis’s unrest for the first experience showed on his face, as a thin looking member assured him.
A former merchant before he joined the band as a supply procurer, as Ardis recalled what Lexy said. On his waist hung a sword that is mass-produced similarly to Ardis.
「Just pull it out whenever you feel it’s needed. Hesitating will only get you killed quicker. 」
While saying so the thin man tapped on the sword by his waist. Although he didn’t have a physique that’s worth flattering, it’s the same for everyone here.
The mercenary band’s three hundred people, twenty-seven of them, about ten percent of them are here.
Victor said, people like them that would join a mercenary band despite not fighting is normally very rare. Procuring supplies, interpreters, most mercenary bands assign these roles to the fighters that are moderately experienced with them.
Leaving aside an army, it’s quite rare to have a mercenary band like Wisteria to have specialists in them.
Matching the fact that there’s quite a few women, this mercenary band is different from the normal standard, that’s what Ardis understood in the past few days.
At the frontline, the war must be going on intensely. Despite far away, the yelling and clashing of their weapons were carried in the wind and can still be heard.
There’s no knowing when Ardis and the others will be dragged into the fight. That’s why, they have to minimize the chance of getting discovered by enemies.
Not using fire to cook. They were even covering light with cloth to minimize leakage, a bonfire to keep warm is obviously out of question.
「Warm food will only be after this. 」
「No, just having food is good enough. 」
The procurer man that handed over a meat jerky said apologetically but Ardis shook his head.
Comparing to the paste food in the facility, even a cold meal is much more delicious, and comparing to the wasteland where there’s not even any food, just having some is good enough.
Even though far from the frontline, there’s nothing guaranteeing the enemies won’t put their eyes here. Ardis can understand avoiding the risk of getting discovered by enemies.
Although the mercenaries in the battlefield are capable enough to fend off an attack even if it’s a surprise attack in the night, Ardis and the others won’t even be able to hold out if an attack came.
Getting discovered by enemies would mean that all twenty-seven people here are sentenced to death. While feeling unrest like when he was escaping from the pursuers, Ardis went into sleep.
While shrouded in such feeling, the first, second day passed. Sensing the invisible pressure closing in, they welcomed the third night.
The mountains that was quiet in the morning. In the silence, suddenly the ending announcement came.
「Enemy atta―― gyaaaaa! 」
With the warning not even finished, a painful shriek came, Ardis who woke up immediately put his hand on his sword.
When he tried to get out of the tent, the man that was sleeping beside him stopped him.
「Idiot! Don’t get out from there! 」
The others used their swords to cut open the back of the tent, and exited through the seam. Ardis as well followed them.
Ardis who exited immediately saw, one of their own dropped on the ground making a pool of blood. A battle started with the enemies under only the moonlight.
For Ardis that has only just entered the mercenary band, he hasn’t recognized enough faces to tell enemies and friend apart.
On top of that, they never had any light in fear of getting discovered by enemies, and so telling them apart is already difficult enough in the dim surroundings.
He can’t tell who is who. Ardis hesitated for a moment after drawing his sword but, he immediately turned his gaze to another tent.
There’s only one person that Ardis knows well here. If he can’t tell who is who, at the very least, he can protect who he knows for sure is a friend.
Logically and emotionally, both of them matched Ardis’s purpose. Knowing what he should do, the only thing left is to execute it.
Finding the appearance of the person he should protect, Ardis called out her name.