Ardis’ gaze was drawn to a tiny fur ball suspended in mid-air. It was a four-legged beast in its infancy.
It’s unclear how it got there, but one of its hind legs was bound with something resembling a vine, and its head was dangling from the tree.
It is about the size of a human head, coated in golden fur, with a fluffy tail on its back.
「A baby fox? 」
As if reacting to Luciel’s soft mutter, the beast’s head moved slightly.
「What’s with this situation?」
There doesn’t appear to be anything else moving in the area.
Although the beast looked like it was caught in a human’s trap, in the first place, it’s unlikely for humans to be hunting in this kind of place.
The vine that bound the beast’s limb didn’t appear to be manmade either, and there were no additional beast reactions to be found.
As for the beast in question, it wasn’t afraid at all or even intimidating, it was just looking at them lazily. Almost like an expression of 「What’s up? 」.
The two were perplexed, and there was little to go on for them to make an educated guess.
「Did it get caught? 」
「Who knows…… It appears to be a human trap, but…… I don’t believe there is a hunter in the area at this moment. 」
While Ardis was deep in thought, Luciel asked for his opinion.
「So, what should we do?」
「You mean? 」
Luciel’s black pupils pointed to the dangling fur ball.
「Isn’t it too pitiful to leave it behind like that? 」
「……Don’t tell me you plan to bring it along? 」
Ardis caught onto what Luciel was trying to say. Wisteria is a mercenary band that lives by fighting.
However, the mercenary band likes to pick up children everywhere and look after them, but only if they are humans, thanks to the captain’s curiously protective effect.
The two couldn’t expect them to treat a wild beast the same way. Luciel’s straightforward eyes looked into Ardis’ disapproved expression.
As the two pairs of black eyes reflected each other’s appearance, Luciel started with a 「But……」
「Captain picked us up, right? 」
Hearing her words, Ardis couldn’t find the words to rebuke her.
Even though they had been saved by someone else, they would not provide a helping hand to another. It would be hypocritical to do that.
After a thoughtful moment of silence, Ardis gave up with a large sigh, 「Fine, let’s do that.」
「Let’s bring it along for now. I can’t bear the consequences if anything happens after that though. 」
「Unn. Thanks, Ardis. 」
Seeing Luciel who was smiling brightly, as if covering his cheeks to hide his loosening expression, Ardis turned to the dangling baby beast.
They moved carefully towards it, but the golden beast did not bark or try to flee. It couldn’t possibly have missed them, yet it was simply silently looking at them while dangling.
「It’s quite docile. 」
「It might be weakened. 」
「I will cut the vine looking thing, can you catch it when it falls? Be careful with it since it might struggle. 」
「Unn. I know. 」
Ardis leapt up and severed the vine that was suspending the golden beast in the air, seeing Luciel’s preparation with her arms underneath the beast.
As soon as the baby beast was free of the restraint, Luciel secured it.
「It’s alive…… right? 」
Keeping his sword, Ardis peeked at Luciel’s arms that was carrying the baby beast.
「It’s alright. 」
The furball in her arms didn’t appear to resist at all, and rather after a brief glance at Luciel and Ardis, it curled up and closed its eyes.
「It’s sleeping in this situation? 」
It was a bold beast to say the least.
「W-Well, it’s certainly better than being terrified in this situation?
「I mean, that’s true……」
「Let’s catch up with the rest of the group first. It’s going to be troublesome if the fortress closes.」
Ardis, who had a dumbfounded face while staring at the small furball, was prodded by Luciel and answered, 「Yeah」, before beginning to move.
Rushing to get out of the forest, Ardis and Luciel eventually caught up to the others just near the fortress entrance.
Even though the enemies have been chased away, the fortress must be closed off as quickly as feasible. They surely aren’t good enough people to open the gates just for one or two late mercenaries.
The two that managed to safely return to the fortress before the gate closed looked for Greyth.
「Nn? What’s up, Ardis? 」
He was probably doing a damage assessment, as Victor was also beside Greyth.
When they arrived in front of the two, Greyth and Victor both shifted their gaze to the baby beast in Luciel’s arms.
「What’s with that? 」
T/L: (刻渡り)Tokiwatari loosely translates to time-crossing
「Oh, that’s rare. Isn’t this a young 『Tokiwatari』? 」
「They’re just that kind of species. Where did you find one? 」
As Ardis explained simply to answer Victor, Greyth muttered while deep in his thoughts
「Fuun……, dangling down from a branch, you say……」
Greyth was looking at the newborn Tokiwatari with curiosity when Luciel asked him a question.
「That…… Captain. This little child, we couldn’t leave it back there…….at the very least, please allow me to……」
「Yeah, sure. 」
Despite Luciel’s jumbled words, Greyth and Victor, who stood behind him, voiced their approval right away.
Ardis made a foolish sound at the unexpected easy approval. Luciel’s eyes became big, and it appeared like she was surprised as well.
「What’s up? 」
「No, I didn’t think my request would be approved so easily……」
「Similarly. Leaving aside Greyth, I thought for sure Victor would object. 」
Ardis, who was even more surprised than Luciel added on to her words, and the individual in question, Victor replied casually.
「At the very least, it appears to like Luciel, and if it doesn’t, it may go at any time, right?」
「Of course we don’t need freeloaders but…….even if it can’t help us out in the war, it will be a good escort for the non-combatants. 」
Hearing Greyth’s explanation, Luciel became curious.
「Is this child really that strong? 」
「It will be stronger, but even now, it’s likely stronger than a Nedulo. 」
Both Ardis and Luciel were surprised at the unexpected revelation.
「What, you guys brought it without knowing anything? 」
Seeing them act like that, Greyth smiled bitterly with a slightly stupefied expression, while Luciel stared at the Tokiwatari in her arms.
As if it had sensed the others, the tiny Tokiwatari opened its eyes thinly, appearing unconcerned.
「I’m not sure you are a male or female, but are you hungry? 」
Greyth spoke while meeting eyes with it.
The tiny Tokiwatari let out a big yawn,「Kwaaaa」, and then stared at Greyth before opening its mouth.
This time, it wasn’t a yawn.
From its tiny mouth, came out human words that Ardis and Luciel never expected. It replied back to Greyth, 「I’m hungry.」
「It’s speaking!? 」
「It can even talk!? 」
Both Ardis and Luciel widened their eyes at the unexpected revelation.
Disregarding the two that had their mouths gaping, Greyth continued the conversation as if nothing happened.
「Then follow me for your meal. 」
The tiny Tokiwatari leapt from Luciel’s clutches and followed Greyth after responding with some difficulty.
Even though Ardis and Luciel’s expressions showed they couldn’t comprehend what had just transpired, they panickily pursued after them.
Following behind Greyth’s broad steps, both the small beast and the two onlookers from behind trailed him.
Arriving at the fortress’s canteen, Greyth ordered food from the cook on duty for the Tokiwatari.
「Why food for a beast……」
「My bad, my bad. I will explain it to the superiors later. 」
Pushing some money to the cook, Greyth told them 「Both of you come to my room later 」 and left.
Only Ardis, Luciel, and the golden furball Tokiwatari were left behind there.
As Ardis brought the food that the cook prepared, the golden furball that had been waiting on top of the table started diving in immediately.
Ardis and Luciel were both awestruck as they saw its audacity, which was inconceivable for any wild beast.
It even appeared to have assigned a grade to the flavor.
Although it might only be complaining, it’s not behaving like a natural wild beast. The meal was not as elaborate as the ones for people.
There was only the rough bread, which was only suitable for filling you up, and a little amount of meat that had been cooked without any seasoning.
The cook probably thought this was enough for a beast.
「It’s not carnivorous? 」
「Are foxes omnivores too? 」
「Hmm? Ardis knows about foxes. 」
「Nn――, a little bit……」
While watching the Tokiwatari eat, Ardis and Luciel chatted idly.
Unlike the two who were not very informed, Ardis believed that if the dinner was made by the cook under Greyth’s instructions, who is knowledgeable about the beast, it should be alright.
「Taste. Average. But full. 」
The beast offered its rating for the meal after eating the amount that was more than adequate for its little size, and then laid down with a satisfied face.
No matter how small, it’s still a beast born of wild, Ardis, who had been staying silent so as not to disrupt the beast’s feast, made his decision and spoke up.
「Hey, you can understand what we speak? 」
The tiny Tokiwatari answered while looking at Ardis after a little pause in response to his query.
「A bit means…only a part of it?」
「I guess so. Maybe it’s because it’s still young, or maybe their species hasn’t had many opportunities to communicate……but we’ll leave that to Victor to answer. 」
In the past five years, Ardis and Luciel have both learnt a lot and become considerably knowledgeable.
However, there are still many things that they don’t know or understand yet.
Furthermore, it can’t be faulted if they have gaps in their knowledge due to a bias in knowledge thanks to their unique setting of being in a mercenary band and needing to focus on living day after day.
「Say, when we found you, why were you hanging upside down on a branch? 」
If they can communicate for the time being despite it being a bit shaky, they can just ask the person in question for answers.
「What happened there? Did you get caught in a human’s trap? 」
Luciel, who appeared to be thinking, inquired about the odd encounter, but the response she received was surprising.
「Floaty, fun. Swing, feels good.」
In a happy mood, the Tokiwatari was waving its furry tail like a paintbrush left and right.
Since the Tokiwatari’s words were very fragmented, Ardis filled in the blanks.
And the conclusion he arrived to was.
「Could it be……you hung yourself upside down? 」
「Upside down, rolling. Funny.」
Ardis sensed energy fleeing him as he listened to the Tokiwatari’s response.
「Eh? What? By itself…… meaning it was actually playing? 」
Luciel’s face was complex when it turned out that the beast in issue was having fun playing about, despite the fact that she thought she was saving a helpless tiny beast.
Furthermore, Greyth claims that it isn’t as weak as it appears, and that it is at the very least stronger than an amateur mercenary.
The tiny Tokiwatari closed its eyes and began sleeping on the table, thinking the conversation was ended.
「……I suppose we should regroup with the others first? 」
「Yeah, let’s do that」
When Luciel heard Ardis’ remark, she rose up and grabbed the small Tokiwatari ball.
Its ears moved when it was picked up.
However, it looks like it’s chosen to continue sleeping in Luciel’s arms.
The Tokiwatari completely transformed into a golden fur ball when it curled up.
It was hard to blame Ardis and Luciel for drawing inquisitive glances from passers-by on their way back to the Wisteria’s dorm.