The moment when Ardis felt his sword reached the limits of its durability, the monster was suddenly blown to the side.
「That’s enough, monster. 」
The owner of the voice was the flying sword user, Wisteria’s captain.
The most reliable man in that place.
「Half-assed attack won’t work on it! Three including me will be attacking, and the others are to put barriers on anyone that is about to get hit! 」
Receiving Greyth’s orders, the mercenaries that were stunned in place regained themselves.
Defending against the attacks that were abnormal in speed and power by having multiple people layering many barriers, including Greyth, three skillful mercenaries struck it with all their strength.
Although the mercenaries there were able to subdue the monster with all their powers combined, they still incurred one more casualty and many injuries.
「How many of us were taken out? 」
「Including the people that were here in the beginning, it should be eight. 」
One of the old timers answered Greyth.
「Tch, the heck is this……it’s not just a normal research facility I guess. 」
The five allied countries didn’t manage to get any information regarding what kind of research was being done here.
And so, unexpected emergencies could happen.
However, even Greyth didn’t expect they would encounter a monster of this caliber.
「What should we do? 」
「……Splitting up, is no longer an option. With that kind of monster around, it’s too dangerous to fight in small groups. Either way, if we hold the entrances, there’s no worry of escape. Tell the other groups to move around in high alert. Also……if there are any researchers we captured, interrogate them about the monster just now. We can probably come up with a few counter measures if we know what they are. 」
Prompted by a veteran, Greyth gave his orders one after another.
However, before the mercenaries could move in response to the instructions, a laid-back out-of-place voice was heard.
「Ara, really? I don’t mind telling you though? 」
The mercenaries were on guard against the sudden occurrence and were looking around to find the voice source.
「Who’s there! 」
「From where? 」
However, no matter how much they looked around, they couldn’t find anyone who could be the speaker.
As they were all confused, suddenly, a part of the wall turned around, and from within appeared several strange boards glowing black.
Then, one of the boards that were aligned with each other in a grid pattern shined, and a face that Ardis and the others knew well appeared.
「You are the Rodelia’s! 」
Several others exclaimed the same thing in surprise.
The person that appeared on the board was the Rodelia’s woman general that they have quite the karma with.
A person known as Jelia of the Catastrophic Butterfly.
「You asshole! 」
One of the mercenaries reflexively threw a dagger towards Jelia.
With a sound of something hard being struck, Jelia disappeared, and only the broken black glowing board remained.
「Seriously, this is why mercenaries are so……」
「W-Where did she go!? 」
Despite disappearing, Jelia’s voice continued to reverberate.
「Of course that’s because I’m not even there. It’s only an image of myself you see. Destroying them wouldn’t accomplish anything. 」
「Yes. So, stop that meaningless act. 」
Matching the reverberating voice, Jelia’s face once again appeared on another board.
And as expected, no one broke the board this time.
As Jelia herself said, it is probably only an image of her that they are seeing.
No matter how much they shattered the boards, it was pointless if it couldn’t harm the individual.
「Well then. Let me start anew――welcome to my experimenting site. 」
「Experimenting site? 」
Greyth reflexively questioned the eerie-sounding words.
「That’s right. An experimenting site for the pets that my subordinate raised. I wanted to see how they will fare against mercenaries. 」
「What are you hinting at? 」
「Ara, it’s exactly what I said. Didn’t you fight it just now? 」
「Pet……? That thing? 」
「Fufufu. Though I can’t say that it’s cute, it did well, right? Although I already have a lot of test data, actual combat data is still lacking. So, I wanted to let them fight you in an actual fight for a bit. 」
Along with Jelia’s voice, which looked to be having a good time, there was another annoying laugh like Hya hya hya coming from behind her.
Greyth glared at the soldiers that were supposed to be their guides.
But the soldiers were shaking their heads with their face green.
It seems that even the five allied countries fell prey to Jelia’s plot.
「That’s quite an underhanded way you took to get revenge. Thanks to you, eight of us died in a terrible way. 」
Turning back to face her again, this time, Greyth asked void of any emotions as he glared at the woman general.
「……Are you satisfied yet? 」
「Ara, did I say that’s the end of it? 」
「Wounding my face, shaming me, you wouldn’t expect me to forgive you with just a few people dying right? Unfortunately, the end is far, and it is only beginning now. 」
「The heck do you mean? 」
「Fufu, it’s this meaning. 」
Following Jelia’s words, other black boards started lighting up at once.
「S-Save me! 」
「Shit! Let go you shit! 」
「Noo! I don’t want to die! 」
At the same time, angry voices and screams reverberated in the room.
「Wha……this is!? 」
Ardis looked at the images displayed on the glowing boards.
In all of them, there were different monsters with various appearances fighting every one of the Wisteria.
They were the other members that entered from the other entrances.
「Hiiiiii! I’m melting! 」
One of the boards showed a mercenary being swallowed whole by a translucent monster, and their entire body was melting away.
Starting from their skin, even the exposed muscles were diminishing by the second.
Eventually, even his bones turned into bubbles and disappeared.
「No! Go away! 」
On another board, fist-sized beetle-like organisms were swarming one mercenary.
Having his body torn apart alive, the image of them forcibly grinding their way into their body was unbearable even for Ardis who had witnessed many deaths in battle.
Eventually the mercenary fell to the beetles, becoming chunks of bloody flesh to be devoured.
The beetles that ate even the weapon and armor that were made of metal then assaulted the other mercenaries.
「Shit, there were other monsters! 」
There was a familiar voice responding to Greyth’s frustrated voice.
「That voice, is it captain!? 」
Victor’s figure showed up on one of the boards clearly.
Victor and others of his group were fighting a humanoid monster that looked like it is covered in rock.
「We are in a tough battle with a strange enemy currently! Five of us died. Please support us if you can! 」
It was Ardis’s first-time seeing Victor asking help from someone else.
It meant that the enemy was just that much of a threat.
「Got it! Where’s the location!? 」
Despite Greyth’s intention to respond to the distress call, Jelia stopped his attempt.
「Ara, did you think you have room for that? 」
Suddenly, three silhouettes dropped from the ceiling.
If they are the same as the monster that took eight lives just now, naturally, their strength is clear.
With not even a chance for them to ready themselves, the three monsters jumped at the group.
After that, it was a cruel period for Wisteria.
Even just one of them is too much to handle, and there were three of them. Moreover, their numbers were already cut from the initial battle.
There were not enough members even if they wanted to cooperate effectively.
And naturally, they aren’t opponents that can be defeated in a versus fight.
The group desperately resisted under Greyth’s commands, but more and more of them fell prey to the monster.
It was only the moments where the monsters were drinking blood from the corpses that they have room to breathe at all.
「Greyth, we are getting wiped out if this goes on! 」
Thanks to one of them being the sacrifice, two of the monsters were not moving and showed an opening, as one of the old timers shouted at Greyth.
「No choice. Retreat. 」
However, it was the soldier that guided them that raised a complaint.
「Please wait. Are you saying that you will abandon the contract? 」
「You can see the situation right? We will pay the penalty fee. There’s no meaning if we die here. I will listen to your complaints later when we get out of here. 」
Greyth butted heads with the soldier, as though he wouldn’t listen to whatever the soldier said, but the soldier retreated shockingly easy.
「I’m just confirming it. I also have my position. I won’t say to continue the mission with this situation. There will be a penalty, but I will do my best to appeal to my superiors. 」
「Thanks for understanding. 」
Greyth was just simply answering on impulse, but was the soldier aware of it?
The situation that unfolded as if they were waiting for Wisteria’s arrival, and how Jelia spoke.
It was clear that the current state is a result of trying to ensnare Wisteria in a trap.
With the five allied countries falling in it as well, they have the same fault.
From Ardis’s standpoint, it was the five allied countries’ fault to not have realized that it’s a trap before bringing the offer to Wisteria.
Though there’s nothing to be said about this currently.
Like Greyth said, it would be meaningless to say anything if they don’t survive.
「All of y’all hear that!? Wisteria will now abandon this request. Retreat in your group at your own discreet! 」
Despite announcing to retreat, it’s not like their opponent would let them out easily.
「Ara ara, surrendering already? How unsightly. But well――」
As if watching a pleasant show, a sadistic smirk appeared on Jelia’s face as she said.
「――Can you really escape? 」
Like Jelia said, the monsters were attacking them without regards to their will.
Even in the scenes displayed on the boards, there were only a few groups that succeeded in retreating among all that tried to.
Most of them were had their hands full with trying to defend from the monsters.
「Don’t worry. Even if you all died, your precious combat data will be used to raise more special soldiers in the future. Isn’t it great to offer yourself to the advance in technology? 」
「You shitbag! 」
One of them cursed at Jelia with the way she spoke and treated people as experimenting tools.
Even Ardis would have cursed like that if he had the room.
Defending against the monster that approached at irregular speeds somehow, Ardis and the others moved slowly to exit the room.
In this process alone, there were already casualties in the double digits.
Retreat is difficult even in a battle with humans.
Moreover, they are facing monsters that know no fatigue nor fear.
Eventually, by the time the group managed to arrive at the crossroad near the exit, the numbers of the group had been the half of when they entered the building.
「Hurry! We’re near the exit! 」
It’s not strange even if another monster appeared.
Being very cautious to their surroundings, Ardis and the others ran down the corridor.
「Ah, wait! 」
「What’s the matter, Ruu? 」
Luciel suddenly stopped amidst that.
「There are children there. 」
Where Luciel pointed certainly were figures of what seemed like two children.
It’s probably an aftermath of where another group fought.
The wall crumbled, and there was a giant gaping hole on the wall.
Beyond the wall was what seemed like a jail, where two children just crawled out.
「Oi, why are there children at this time. 」
「There’s no time to be caught over that now. 」
The mercenaries that stopped for a short moment reprimanded Luciel.
「But, it’s exactly for that reason we can’t leave the children behind! 」
「What if they are monsters too? 」
With those words as the trigger, even Ardis tensed up for a moment.
「Please go ahead first! 」
However, Luciel alone didn’t back down from what the others said, and instead ran towards the children.
The children had shackles binding their limbs and wore only a rag that’s too poor to be called proper clothes.
They are clearly prisoners from their appearance.
Certainly, if it’s that woman general, she might’ve set a trap to lure them with monsters disguised as imprisoned children.
However, knowing that, Ardis still chased after Luciel.
It was Ardis who felt the two children overlapped with his past.
Like Ardis and Luciel, they might still be at the stage of being humans.
If so, they couldn’t stand the idea of leaving them behind.
As they drew closer, they could see the two children were a girl that looked about 10 years old and a boy about 7 years old.
「I will carry that girl, Ruu take that kid. 」
Leaving the smaller boy to Luciel, Ardis carried the girl on his back and returned to the group.
Despite how Luciel told them to 『Go on ahead』, they were all waiting for the two to return.
Some would probably say that they’re naïve.
However, it’s exactly this mercenary band with naivety that Ardis is proud of.
「What a handful, you two. I will be guarding our backs so get moving already. 」
While smiling bitterly and lightly hitting on Ardis’s head, Greyth guarded their backs as he said.
After that, while encountering other monsters several times, the group managed to escape outside.
Retreating to a safe place and gathering at the predetermined spot, they came to know of the casualties.
The group that Greyth led had more than half dead, but the other groups that went through other entrances were even worse.
More than 70% of Victor’s group didn’t return, and the group that Darwat led had only measly 3 survivors including him.
In the 158 members that participated, only 43 made it out alive.
Incurring a loss that is as great as three-fourths of the entire mercenary band, Wisteria could be said to be on the brink of dissolution.