The giant group of mercenaries raised clouds of sand as they rushed towards the fortress. Despite not heavily armored, they were still carrying considerable weight as they brought along various equipment to keep the safe like large shields to protect themselves from arrows.
The raging cries of both their enemies and allies drowned out their heavy stomping footsteps.
「Take aim! 」
Greyth delivered the command as he saw the enemies approach in waves, as if they were crashing on the shore from above.
The allies fired arrows at the same moment, creating a loose parabola, and the arrows rained down on the enemy mercenaries like heavy rain. Despite a few of them getting hit by the arrows and falling, most of the enemy mercenaries did not lose momentum in their charge and maintained their assault.
「Archers continue shooting with the same rhythm! Those who can use arts start using them in your designated area! Don’t die stupidly by forgetting to deploy a barrier! 」
Despite having the upper hand due to their position atop the wall, the closing distance between them and their enemies continued to alert them of impending doom. While charging forward, the enemy mercenaries were firing fire and ice arrows arts as a retaliation for the volley of arrows earlier.
「They’re here, Ardis! 」
「No problem! 」
Without the need for Luciel’s warning, Ardis deployed a barrier that covered himself and Luciel. A lump of mass launched from below at incredible velocity crashed into the barrier and bounced away after the impact.
The enemy archers shot arrows towards the allies on the wall, and allies used flying swords to stop them. Arrows that were guided by arts by the enemies dodged the flying swords like fish swimming in the blue sky, striking allies one after another.
Those who were unfortunate enough to have their eyes punctured died quickly, while some continued to bleed from arrow wounds.
Of course, the enemies were not just shooting arrows. One of the allies who took too long to throw up a barrier was hit by a flame arts and burned to a crisp, likely owing to the loss of focus from the agony of the arrow lodged in his arm.
Others, in other locations, were cut into pieces by mana-powered blades, where their blood spilled all over the area.
Even the unpleasant smell of burnt flesh quickly dissolved into the blood rain.
「I can make a barrier by myself. 」
「It’s incidentally, incidentally. 」
While replying simply to a peeved Luciel, Ardis utilized his arts to counterattack the enemies.
About five pieces of ice with sharpened edges appeared and shot towards the group of enemies approaching. Three of them were deflected by barriers, and one was evaded, but the last one pierced the enemy’s right thigh successfully.
With just a half-torn right leg intact, the enemy collapsed, and was trampled by the charging enemy.
Although still seemingly peeved at Ardis, Luciel as well, released her water arts at the enemies. The water, which had been thinned to the point of oblivion, travelled in a straight path, and easily penetrated through their shield.
Looking from afar, it would seem like the enemies suddenly collapsed while holding a large shield. However, looking closely, there are small bleeding wounds on their forehead.
Regardless of whether a shield was there, the water thread pierced the enemy’s head.
「As usual with the strange arts. Luciel. 」
A man with short greenish silver hair called out from the side. The man’s name is Sark, who is similarly a Wisteria mercenary, and Ardis and Luciel’s friend of the same generation.
Although he was slightly older than Ardis and Luciel in age, it didn’t make for a significant gap in the mercenary band.
In fact, thanks to the similarity in their ages, he’s one of the closest people they have in the mercenary band.
While idly commenting on Luciel’s arts, Sark as well utilized his arts towards the enemies. About ten huge fireballs lined up above the enemies, before crashing to the earth.
Accompanied by an explosive roar, the enemies were engulfed in flames, but of course, they still had their barriers to protect them.
Despite the barrier however, around ten individuals were still burned to charcoal as Sark’s insane mana capacity pushed through everything.
However, it’s only a small part of the majority. Most of them managed to overcome Sark’s flames with their barriers, sustaining only minor burns in the process.
「As usual with the amazing arts. Sark. 」
Even though her comments were similar to Sark’s, Luciel seemed more dumbfounded in her expression. Simply put, the amount of wasted mana and inefficiency is too absurd.
Sark clicked his tongue irritably, whether because of what Luciel said or because his strike wasn’t as successful as he had hoped.
「He just really likes to bruteforce with mana. 」
Another young man with a similar appearance to Sark spoke forward. Sark reacts moodily as he is stared at by a pair of cool blue eyes that appear dumbfounded.
「Elion, you’re making a lot of noise. So, how about you tell me what I should do?」
「Do it the same, but more efficiently. Exactly like this.」
Saying so, Elion threw the small jars in his hand towards the enemies below. Using arts, he guided the small jars and carried them above the enemies.
Elion then unleashed his arts at the precise moment when each jar was close to an enemy. With small but precise wind arts, he broke all the jars in one go, and some invisible liquid poured onto the ground.
「Right on the mark. 」
While replying to Ardis and peering down, Elion once again activated his arts. He only generated a tiny flame that could produce minor sparks.
It was too unreliable to even call it a flame, almost like an extinguishing fire spark. That’s probably why it never warranted caution from the enemies.
The fire sparks struck the ground where oil had already spilled without being hindered by barriers, quickly turning the area into a sea of flames.
There were not many casualties because the enemies immediately used arts to extinguish it. However, even though it was just for a little period, their tempo was broken, and many enemies were burned in the leg.
That small disturbance is more than enough for Wisteria, which has many experienced mercenaries.
「Now! Pour everything you have! 」
A concentrated barrage of arts poured down on Greyth’s instructions, and the enemy mercenaries who were still in disarray ate it straight.
「Too much work……」
Elion’s grinning expression towards Sark seemed almost identical to Sark’s cumbersome expression.
Of course, Ardis won’t mistake their face having been together for a long time. However, if they both wear the same hairstyle and a poker face, even Ardis can’t be confident who is who.
It’s easy to assume they’re brothers since they have the same face and hair, and even their pupils are the same color.
However, they’re not brothers. Sark and Elion are twins who share the same mother and were born on the same day.
Thanks to their stark difference in hairstyle where Sark has a short hair while Elion has a ponytail, their words and behavior, as well as their expressions, Ardis can readily distinguish them despite their extremely similar facial characteristics.
Despite having the same features, their personality and even how they employ their arts in combat are complete mirror images of one another.
Unlike Sark who likes to use arts to directly attack the enemies, Elion shows joy in brandishing his creativity and using new ways to fight and create new arts.
His attack just now was the same. Sark complained it was 「Too much work」, yet its effects can’t be overlooked.
Of course, there are more enemies directly defeated by Sark’s arts. However, Elion’s method can’t be overlooked when it comes to doing damage to the enemies.
Moreover, the mana he expended in all of that was not even one percent of what Sark used just now.
It’s a far better decision than Sark’s technique of pumping mana without care when considering the likelihood of a drawn-out conflict.
Of course, Elion’s mana pool isn’t any smaller than Sark’s. If he tried, he could get through it by using force, but it’s not in Elion’s nature to rely on sheer force like Sark.
「Mana is the lifeblood of any mage. Our kind will become baggage if mana runs out. Sark, too, should think twice before wasting mana.」
「So noisy. It’s much easier to just break through their barrier without fussing about this and that. 」
Sark who kicked away Elion’s advice was faced with Luciel’s dissatisfied face.
「No one would be in trouble if that can be done so easily. 」
Ardis agreed with her.
If he had the mana to forcefully push through the enemies’ barrier, then he would be more use.
Only this pair of twins in the whole of Wisteria can break through the opponents’ barrier purely by mana overpowering.
Even Greyth, the Captain, didn’t have a mana pool as large as theirs. They’re the pair of twins that are too absurd in the standpoint of mana pool.
「Hey you guys. Stop chatting about this and that. Focus on the enemy instead.」
Joan reprimanded the four individuals with a vein emerging when he saw them like that.
「But Joan, they’re retreating already. 」
Sark glanced down at the hostile mercenaries charging, purposefully putting a roof over his eyes.
As Sark said, there are fewer enemies than before. The enemy appears to have sustained significant damage as a result of everyone’s concentrated arts, with Elion’s arts serving as the turning point.
There were still occasionally sporadic attacks flying towards the fortress. But it’s looking like they are slowly moving to retreat.
「The enemies are retreating! Mercenaries move into pursue! 」
When the fortress commander saw the enemy’s actions, he issued orders, and the mercenary bands that got them began marching one by one.
「You heard it! Wisterias leave two squads on the wall and move into pursue! Excluding wounded, gather at the gate! 」
With Greyth’s order to the entirety of Wisteria, they started to move towards the gate as well. Naturally, Ardis and the other three, who are unharmed, are to continue their involvement in the pursuit.
Ardis and Luciel had been picked by the Wisteria about five years ago. Now, they’ve both grown into important members of the mercenary band.
Luciel belatedly started participating in the battle as a mercenary by three years compared to Ardis has about ten battle experience.
She has become a splendid warrior after receiving the baptism of battle and accepting a place to kill or be killed. She is no longer the innocent little girl with a green face who said fighting is impossible for her.
As for Ardis, he had stepped halfway into his grave for several times that much. The times he almost died can’t be counted with two hands, and neither can he be bothered to count the number of people he’s finished off already.
Such is the life of a mercenary, he had been continuing for five years by telling himself that.
In a mercenary band where people are frequently replaced due to death, five years is more than enough experience.
In fact, the members who joined before Ardis and have remained till now make up little over half of the Wisteria’s total membership.
In just five years, about a hundred people disappeared, and replacing them are another hundred new faces.
Sark and Elion are part of the latter. They had joined Wisteria around four years ago, when Ardis was still learning to stand on a battlefield.
Although a little younger than the twins, thanks to being the same generation, the group became intimate.
That’s the relationship between the twins, Luciel and Ardis.
About two years had passed since the four started standing on battlefields together. By now, Ardis and Luciel are both recognized as excellent mercenaries by others.
As for the twins, thanks to their absurd mana capacity, they are already considered the main force within just four years.
They are regarded as the fifth or sixth most valuable members of the mercenary band, behind Greyth, the senior Victor, Joan, and Darwat.
Ardis, on the other hand, although being a veteran, is not powerful enough to be considered part of the mercenary band’s main force.
Being only above average in the mercenary band, Ardis felt inferior with his position.
This time, Wisteria had accepted the job of defending the fortress. With the help of the feudal lord’s army, they were to repel the siege.
Including Westeria, three mercenary bands, as well as the feudal lord’s private troops and volunteers, totaled around a thousand five hundred persons defending the stronghold for twenty days.
In the past ten days, there were three siege attempts made by the enemy, but all of them failed in the end.
The third attempt was settled by Elion’s cunning and Wisteria’s firepower, and the remaining forces are now on expedition to pursue the enemy remnants.
「But, couldn’t it be a trap? Isn’t it common to pretend to retreat to draw in your enemies and then ambush them?」
Running beside Ardis, Luciel expressed her concerns.
Her black hair was tied into a ponytail and swayed in sync to the running tempo. Ardis had given her a violet ribbon a long time ago, and it was this that tidied her long hair.
It seems like it was Luciel’s favored ribbon, as Ardis could see her wearing it almost every day. While feeling somewhat satisfied in his heart seeing that, he replied to Luciel.
「Well, that’s probably why we mercenaries are the ones pursuing. 」
「Sounds about right. I guess it doesn’t hurt the feudal lord whether we manage to reduce the enemy forces or get ambushed. 」
Elion who was running behind Ardis agreed, and beside him, Sark further expressed his negative suspicion.
「Rather, aren’t they thinking that it’s a good chance to exhaust both sides? 」
「But that’s too……」
Luciel was stuck for words. She wants to claim that it’s too impossible, but it’s been five years since she joined a mercenary band and two years since she began fighting.
She has come to understand how the world treats mercenaries. Even if she wanted to deny it outright, the experience she gained thus far didn’t allow her to do so.
「Alright, stop the pursuit! 」
The signal to stop was issued after killing off numerous enemies who were late to retreat and observing how their distance was growing.
「No use to chase them any further! We will return while cleaning up the remnants! 」
Succeeding in defending the fortress, they even managed to reduce the enemy forces in the pursuit. The outcome is a total victory.
While having a high morale over the overwhelming victory, the Wisteria mercenary band finished off the remnants lurking around as they returned to the fortress.
Along the way, Luciel suddenly stopped without any precursor.
「What’s the matter, Ruu? 」
Luciel replied vaguely to Ardis’s inquiry. At the end of her line of sight is a small forest that stretches across all the way back to the fortress.
「Please go ahead first, I will catch up later. 」
Luciel entered the forest while leaving those words after staring at there.
「Hey, Ruu. It’s dangerous to be alone. 」
「What’s up, Ardis? 」
「Sorry, I will catch up later too. 」
Saying so to Sark and Elion who turned around asking what happened, Ardis chased after Luciel without waiting for their replies.
Even if they’d cleared out the last of the opposing enemy forces, it doesn’t mean they’re out of all danger yet. Ardis ran towards Luciel who was walking in the forest.
「What’s the matter? Suddenly entering the forest. 」
While replying still vaguely to Ardis like before, Luciel continued her path deeper to the forest.
「There was something that caught my attention……」
Just as Ardis thought Luciel was going to reply simply like before, she suddenly stopped and started wandering around.
「I think it’s around here. ……Ah 」
「Like I said, what is…… eeh? 」
Luciel, who was looking skyward, seemed to have discovered something, and Ardis, who was following her line of sight, was also taken aback.
Both of them were looking at a tree with overgrown branches and leaves among the others. A little golden beast was hanging from the branch’s tip, or rather, dangling upside down from it.