Having fallen to the trap set by Rodelia Kingdom’s woman general, Jelia, the Wisteria mercenary band was on the verge of dissolution.
The mercenary band that once had more than 300 members after the operation had only 43 survivors, 36 members that did not participate, and 48 other members including non-combatants and apprentices, totaling up to a mere 127 members.
It was a number less than half of what they used to have few days ago, with non-combatants taking up one-third of the population. The composition of the mercenary band was terribly unbalanced.
It was a head aching situation just thinking about the time required to rebuild the mercenary band and what difficulties they will face in the future.
Despite all of that, what the mercenaries felt wasn’t powerlessness nor sadness, but rage that could not be suppressed.
The deceased mercenaries were all someone’s partner, someone’s benefactor, someone’s lover, or maybe someone’s parent figure.
With such a terrible death forced upon them, the others could never forgive it.
Jelia had said so.
That this is her experimenting site for her pets.
Being used as tools to be experimented as their opponents, many of their comrades lost their lives miserably.
Crushed, melted, or eaten alive――.
No one could blame them for their intense rage at how their comrades died in such an inhumane way.
By now, the mercenary band of Wisteria was united by the hatred towards Jelia of the Catastrophic Butterfly.
Despite knowing it was undesirable for them to harbour such a dark and distorted mindset, the Wisteria mercenary band started to go off-course.
Amidst that, there were two mercenaries carrying a heavy atmosphere with a meaning a little different from the others.
Luciel sat down beside Ardis who was on a suitable piece of rock a little distance away from the other mercenaries and started speaking after a long period of silence.
Ardis faced sideways and exchanged gazes with Luciel.
Nodding with Luciel silently, Ardis averted his gaze and faced front again.
「So it’s really as I thought. 」
He understood what Luciel was hinting at.
The building that is burnt into Ardis’s memory.
Regaining his ego, the place where he was treated as an experimental animal.
The place where they fought just now was too alike to the place where they were imprisoned before.
The color and shape of the building, the internal layout, the unknown tools that were scattered in different rooms, and the researchers that wore white clothes.
It was not the same place, but the layout and structure of the buildings was clearly the same.
In other words, the building where Ardis and Luciel came from and the building that they just fought in were both built for the same purpose.
Luciel’s hands reached out to Ardis.
The fingers that grasped onto the sleeve of his clothes were trembling slightly.
Unlike Ardis, Luciel doesn’t have any memories of being experimented upon.
After all, Ardis brought her out before it could happen.
After the previous battle, they finally got a good understanding on what kind of facility they were imprisoned in before.
What would have occurred if she hadn’t fled with Ardis? This time, it was plainly proved.
It was natural to be concerned about the outcome.
Ardis pulled Luciel into his arms.
Wrapping her trembling self in his arms, Ardis hugged her.
At that time, Ardis had the choice of abandoning her.
Ardis reasoned that taking Luciel along would be detrimental in that circumstance, which he himself was unsure about.
However, currently, Ardis was very relieved that he was able to rescue Luciel’s warmth from that place.
While thanking his past choices, he recalled few of his unfond memories.
In his vague memories, he was killed countless times.
Having administered unknown drugs and being tampered with, many operations were done on him without him ever knowing the reason.
Because of that, he started thinking that he stopped being a human and was turned into something else.
The murky feeling that he’d forgotten until now resurfaced.
Most of the monsters they fought this time were humanoid looking.
There was a possibility that those who are imprisoned in that facility would eventually end up like that.
If he didn’t choose to escape from that facility when he regained his ego…….
Just imagining it made Ardis sweat cold.
Shaking his thoughts away, Ardis hugged the warmth within his arms harder.
「Say, Ardis. 」
After a while, Luciel who had calmed down within his arms looked up at Ardis and asked.
「In that facility, …… are there still children imprisoned? 」
Ardis’s expression turned cloudy at that question.
When getting out of the facility, they were able to rescue two children.
However, they couldn’t take over the facility, and were instead forced to retreat in defeat.
In other words, there were still places within the facility that they haven’t seen yet.
It was not unusual to find youngsters other than the two they had rescued still imprisoned there.
「If that’s the case……we must save them. If not……」
Ardis was able to tell Luciel’s intentions from her words.
「Infiltrating and rescuing the children from the facility ……」
Although Ardis emotionally agreed with Luciel, his composure as a mercenary was not allowing him.
「I know. But it’s impossible now. The opponents are surely on alert. 」
It’s natural that security will be fortified in the facility that was just attacked.
Until all reparation was finished, and everything was returned to normal, the security would be on alert.
However, no matter if they were infiltrating or not, entering that place was too big of a risk.
Although one could say the time to strike is now, when the opponent is in disarray, the problem is they didn’t even know how many children are imprisoned in there.
Just one or two children is fine. However, if there are more, the difficulty of escaping without getting found out increases exponentially.
There’s a need to thoroughly investigate before conducting a rescue, and it’s probably better for them to wait and see until the situation calms down a little.
「Let’s talk about it with Greyth and the others. Worst case scenario, just the both of us can try to rescue the children. So, now……」
Leaving aside the past Wisteria, the current Wisteria has no room to spare.
It’s unlikely to get any sort of cooperation from Greyth and the others.
Even so, Ardis couldn’t bring himself to abandon the children imprisoned in the facility.
A helping hand that was never offered to him in the past.
As Ardis began to have such ideas, he realized that offering it to someone he doesn’t even know and rescuing that person would provide some value to his own existence.
After that, two months had passed.
The hatred and rage towards Jelia had only increased, but they still had to earn their living.
While waiting for the opportunity to exact their revenge, Wisteria was in the process of rebuilding their organization as a mercenary band.
Despite how the member count was dramatically lowered, the elites including Greyth, Victor, Joan, Darwat and Lexy were all still there.
They couldn’t invest everything into a large-scale battle, but they were keeping their presence known by participating in battles with a small elite group.
The lack of hands is ever apparent, as every member had to bear a heavy burden.
Of course, that includes Ardis.
Participating in battles is just one thing, but he was pushed up to the position of a core member of the mercenary band that had lost many of its veterans, and now had the role of guiding the children apprentices in the mercenary band.
On top of that, with much time spent on gathering information and preparation to rescue the children in the facility, Ardis was too busy every day.
「Al-nii! Look at this, here! 」
An energetic voice called Ardis.
Looking over at the voice, it was a girl with the same eye color as Ardis who was creating a small fireball on her palm.
「You can use fireball already? 」
Ardis’s eyes were both impressed and surprised.
Her name is Reina.
She is one of the children that Ardis and Luciel rescued from that facility.
「Onee-chan unfair! Al-nii, even I can make a fireball now. 」
Next, an even shorter boy as if not willing to lose, showed a small fireball of his own to Ardis.
It was the younger brother, Kyo that was rescued together with Reina.
They were always crying at first, but thanks to being under the protection of Wisteria, their expressions turned brighter, and after two months, they had completely regained their energy.
Could it be that their eye and hair color was especially similar, or maybe they understood that they were saved by Ardis and Luciel, that they were particularly friendly with them?
The two children called Ardis as Al-nii, and Luciel as Ruu-nee. Seeing their figures, he felt that the decision made that time wasn’t a mistake after all.
「Is Ruu-nee not around today? 」
「Nn―, she went out to investigate something for a bit. 」
Ardis answered indifferently towards Kyo’s question.
Two months had passed since that defeat.
Ardis and Luciel had been gathering information regarding the research facility and frantically preparing to infiltrate and rescue the children inside.
By exhausting all their means through merchants, they were able to gather information regarding the facility and even managed to bribe a researcher into getting a mean to infiltrate the facility.
Luciel was out near the facility on her own for the final confirmation.
「Will she return tonight? She promised to teach me how to cook. 」
「Hee, Reina is also learning how to cook huh. What a hardworking girl. 」
「Eh? Really? …… Ehehe 」
Patting her head with a hand full of creases, Reina laughed embarrassedly.
「Ah―me too! Me too! 」
Ardis’s cheeks loosened at the children that demanded to be spoiled as he freed up his other friend to pat Kyo’s head too.
Their foreheads showed themselves as their bangs got ruffled.
A small red gem was embedded in their forehead.
A wave of burning sensation hit his chest as Ardis recalled the monsters that they fought in the facility too had such a gem on their forehead.