A beast reminiscent of a larger cat jumped at Ardis.
While dodging a heavy blow from the enemy’s front limbs, Ardis slashed at it.
If its expression can be understood, it sure is laughing at Ardis now. The best slash he did was blocked with a hard sound, deflected by the physical barrier deployed by the beast.
The beast with the dark blue fur is called a Nedulo. It is a beast known for its high fertility residing in all kinds of places throughout every country.
While supporting its body that is over twice the size of an average human, the six legs are always finding the best position. The Nedulo that seemed to be underestimating Ardis slowly closed the distance.
Releasing an intimidating sound, with a low posture, the Nedulo attacked from the ground. Ardis deflected the claws coming his way the second time.
However, its attacks doesn’t stop there. One of its middle limbs went for another attack.
Judging that there’s not enough time to guard with his sword, Ardis leaned his body in a falling posture and kicked against the ground, retreating to the side.
Quicker than Ardis who is rolling on the ground with momentum could get up, the Nedulo had already caught up with its third attack.
However, it’s within Ardis’s prediction. Easily reading the Nedulo’s jumping trajectory, Ardis pushed his sword out as he was getting up.
Suddenly, the Nedulo’s route in the air changed unnaturally. Kicking against an invisible foothold made from mana, it had dodged Ardis’s counterattack.
And just like that, the Nedulo landed about ten feet away from Ardis. Having a distance between themselves, both sides glared at each other.
Ardis was already in ragged breathing, a state that is very much worse than the Nedulo looking in perfect condition.
That’s something probably the Nedulo realizes too. Although it’s an inferior species that can’t be said to have intelligence, it’s known that they have a personality that likes to play with a weaker prey.
With Ardis obviously being the worse one, it’s a play rather than a fight for the Nedulo. Before Ardis’s breath can calm, it already moved.
Again, the two closed, attacks and defenses clashed repeatedly between swords and claws.
Ardis’s sword wasn’t able to catch the Nedulo even a single time. Speed, count, weight. All the essential elements of his offense couldn’t best the Nedulo, and on top of all, Ardis was tortured by its excellent use of footholds.
Compared to Ardis who can’t yet make a foothold of his own, despite not able to use it consecutively, the Nedulo that can even make one has many more possible movements.
If he can’t match in speed, then the best he can do is predict its movement and strike first, but Ardis didn’t have the experience nor room for that now.
The unstable balance started to tip. Ardis’s fatigued sword couldn’t catch up to the Nedulo’s movements. On the other hand, its claws is starting to near Ardis.
Eventually, its front limbs caught Ardis. The sharp claws gouged Ardis’s shoulder.
Despite his face distorting in pain, Ardis made his best effort to not get hit by its middle limb.
Although weaker, there’s paralyzing poison in its middle limb. Taking a dose of that when he is already at a disadvantage would basically mean defeat.
The fight between Ardis and the Nedulo continued. Not able to deal a critical hit, Ardis was surviving the attacks from the playing Nedulo barely.
However, it’s obvious that his standing is bad. Despite not injured heavily, Ardis was accumulating small wounds on his body.
On the other hand, the Nedulo was full of composure. It probably thinks lightly of Ardis as a weak prey.
「He’s getting played with, for sure. 」
A little distance from the battle between Ardis and the Nedulo, Darwat who was spectating was disappointed.
「Is it alright to not stop him? 」
Looking beside him, he asked Greyth.
「It’s still fine. 」
「But Captain, that child is nearing his limits. 」
This time, Lexy who was on the other side rebuked Greyth.
「Ardis’s eyes aren’t dead yet.」
While still having his eyes locked on the battle, Greyth said. A small sigh came from both sides at the same time.
「That’s the case but, Greyth. Isn’t your favoritism for him quite obvious? It’s true that his sense is good for his age but, he’s still a kid right? 」
「Captain, Ruu will grieve if anything happened to that child. Even other apprentices will only do this after two, three years of training, why did you let that child take the promotion test so early? 」
「That’s of course because he asked for it. 」
Greyth answered the two difficult question breezily.
「Don’t worry, he’s fine. Victor gave his approval this time as well. He’s learned enough to win against one Nedulo in this half year. He hasn’t even show his hand yet. 」
Ardis had been fighting against the Nedulo with only a sword till now. It was the choice of luring the Nedulo into carelessness, and the result are steadily showing.
In fact, the Nedulo didn’t even recognize Ardis as a threat and only treated him as a plaything. And it has no intelligence to realize that it was being tricked to think so.
In fact, despite experienced mercenaries watching from a distance, it didn’t realize being too focused on Ardis, it is the best proof of its carelessness.
If it was intelligent enough, it would be aware of Greyth and the others, and even if it isn’t, if its threat sensing is capable enough, it would’ve chosen to escape already.
Limited intelligence, dull threat senses, exactly because of that, Nedulo is occupying the lowest tier of the food chain.
For people that aim to live by fighting, it’s the first hurdle to clear. A person that can’t even handle a Nedulo on his own has no place in a battlefield.
Winning against a Nedulo is the proof of being a warrior, and it’s the promotion test used by Wisteria to determine whether an apprentice can promote to a real mercenary.
Half a year since the Wisteria mercenary band picked up Ardis and Luciel.
In the end, the both that had no destination accompanied the mercenary band and crossed various battlefields.
Though, the two that were not skillful enough were never allowed proper mercenary work.
Being errand runners while undergoing their training, they had continued tempering their skills to become a real mercenary.
Ardis who had been training himself for the past half year had grown considerably, and is now challenging against a Nedulo after only a short period of training, incomparable to the others.
「Well, just look closely.」
Although it’s normal for Darwat and Lexy to be questioning him, it’s a challenge after Ardis himself had wished so and both Greyth and Victor had judged that he has the capability.
The Nedulo had misjudged Ardis’s strength. Ardis’s winning condition was there.
That’s why, no matter what Darwat and Lexy says, Greyth continued to overlook his fight. And amidst that, a change visited the battlefield in their eyes.
Was it tired with playing, the Nedulo’s movements changed clearly. It probably moved intending to deliver the final blow to the weakened Ardis.
The dark blue six foot kicked against the ground defenselessly.
Greyth muttered. Although there’s no way he could’ve heard it, Ardis’s movement sharpened in response.
Saving his hand, Ardis had endured dodging from critical hits to make the Nedulo drop its guard.
To change that one moment into a victory, Ardis held his sword in one hand, and the other hand stretched towards the Nedulo.
The Nedulo that didn’t even take Ardis as a serious opponent opened its jaw wide fully intending to bite off Ardis’s arm.
Just as the sharp teeth was about to chomp his arm, Ardis’s arts activated. A big boulder suddenly smashed into the Nedulo’s opened mouth.
It was not for the purpose of dealing damage, he purely manifested it there only.
It was just the right size to block the Nedulo’s opened jaws. Ardis’s arts that he has saved until now is still unrefined, it would never hit the Nedulo if he used it carelessly.
That’s why, Ardis saved it as a hidden card for the right moment. A boulder suddenly smashed between its jaws, the Nedulo was struggling to get it out at all cost.
However, it seems like because the boulder was wedged into its jaws perfectly, it couldn’t put any strength and can’t just bite it to pieces, and spitting it out seems difficult as well as its jaws can’t widen further.
A short moment when the Nedulo was occupied with the boulder. However, it’s more than enough time for Ardis.
He immediately circled to its side and cut off one of its legs. In a state that its jaw is stuck and can’t even cry anything, it didn’t have the chance to deploy a barrier against Ardis.
Did it not expect the opponent it thought was an easy prey to be a threat, it didn’t even try to escape but was shaking its head to get the boulder out.
While it was still doing that, Ardis had already gotten the time to cut off the third leg.
No matter if it has six legs, losing half of them would decrease its mobility significantly.
The tables had completely turned at this point. Circling to the Nedulo’s back that lost its agility, Ardis stabbed his sword deeply.
It was a fatal strike. With its jaws blocked, it can’t even cry out anything before falling on its side.
Verifying that the Nedulo had stopped living, as if his strings of nervosity were cut, Ardis collapsed on the ground on his back.
Beside Greyth, Darwat and Lexy were both excited and ran towards Ardis. Following behind them, Greyth walked slowly.
When Greyth reached Ardis, Lexy was already giving first-aid to Ardis. While receiving the first-aid, Darwat violently ruffled Ardis’s head while laughing, 「I guess the kid is not just a kid now huh」
「If he’s not just a kid now, then how about not calling him that? 」
「O? Yeah, that’s right――, Ardis. 」
Did he finally get conscious of calling Ardis a kid, Darwat finally changed how he addressed Ardis with a grin, as Ardis replied with a smile.
Although Nedulo is one of the weakest carnivorous beast, it’s still a formidable foe that requires human to train considerably in order to defeat.
As he had successfully subjugated a Nedulo on his own, Ardis had graduated from an apprentice kid to a real warrior, and should be treated appropriately as one.
Conversely speaking, from today onwards, Ardis would be expected to be a force of the mercenary band.
In a battlefield, he would have to step forward, and he will be forced to change position from being protected to become the one who protects.
Greyth called out while walking to the three. Not talking to the young man he picked up by coincidence, but as a comrade, and as his own subordinate, to Ardis.
「From today onwards, you are a mercenary of our mercenary band, Wisteria. 」
As expected, since he’s now officially a member of the band, he would not be treated the same way as before.
Being ordered to kill enemies, or being dragged to the grave will be the future. Although he’s a little reluctant on bringing a kid to fight, it was Ardis who made the decision.
「You will be at the front from the next battle onwards. Wake up from your sweet treatment till now. Well, seeing how you won against a Nedulo, you won’t be dying easily. 」
That’s why Ardis had a complicated expression hearing Greyth who pointed out the obvious.
「What’s that face. Are you not happy? Wasn’t it you that pestered me and Victor to let you advance quickly. Don’t tell me you’re saying fighting is scary now right? 」
Was it because Greyth words were hard to hear, Ardis with a moody expression was finding words.
「I couldn’t win with just a sword……」
Suddenly hearing that Ardis was intending to win against the Nedulo with just a sword, Greyth’s expression broke apart.
「Hahahak, you still have a long way to go. Ten years too early to be dwelling on how to achieve victory. 」
Even Darwat and Lexy were induced to laugh by Greyth’s laughter. It’s only Ardis who had an unconvinced face.
While smiling bitterly at such Ardis, Greyth consoled, 「There’s no need to be hung over stuff like that now. 」.
「We are mercenaries. Before dwelling on the method to win, focus on winning first. There’s not many that fights only with a sword even in our band. You can use arts. You won by utilizing your own capabilities. That’s all. Even arts is one of your powers. 」
While tapping on Ardis’s head, Greyth continued.
「Well, it doesn’t mean that you can just rely on arts too much though. You are more suited for swordsmanship anyways. Like just now, saving magic as a hidden hand and fight with only a sword is not a bad choice. It’s probably more effective than bombarding with magic anyways. Though it also doesn’t mean that you should hesitate on using it so much that you would lose as the result. Remember this no matter what. 」
There’s no one who knows Ardis’s true age when he himself doesn’t even remember his past. From his growth alone, he’s in the early tens.
Greyth probably can only see a fourteen or fifteen years old figure in him. Of course, children of that age fighting on a battlefield is not rare.
However, unlike the Wisteria mercenary band, other children that steps on a battlefield are likely amateurs that received no training at all.
As the result, ninety percent of them would die in their first fight. Rather, it’s stranger for a mercenary band like Wisteria to be raising children to become a fighter before letting them on the battlefield in this world.
It’s only Greyth that is strange enough to be willing to feed children that can’t do much in a mercenary band.
Most of the children that wanted to become a mercenary, or had no choice but to become one are mostly in a situation to choose between death or being a mercenary.
That’s why, in most mercenary bands, children are at most used as disposable shields.
And among them, the small number of children that managed to survive an actual fight would become adult mercenaries.
And only a small portion of them would ever manage to defeat a Nedulo. From that standpoint, it’s not easy for Ardis’s age to be winning against a Nedulo.
Wondering how bright the rough stone in front of his eyes will shine if polished further, Greyth was intrigued with his future.