Normally, going on foot to the old fortress at the country’s border will take ten days.
Being able to reach there in just a day and a half, while even accounting for rest time, is a feat only possible because they knew the pseudo-flying technique.
「I’m seeing something along the lines of our destination. Is that it? 」
「There shouldn’t be any big buildings around here except the fortress. It’s about time we get down. 」
Although there was still a half day distance to the fortress far in the distance, as expected, they can’t be discovered by the people there if they plan to infiltrate.
Ardis and Rona landed on the ground, and while skillfully utilizing the shadows between the trees, they arrived just before the fortress.
「The guards…… there are not many. 」
Like Rona said, from a glance, the guards didn’t look particularly on guard at all.
Although it’s not like there aren’t any guards, the soldiers themselves were chatting, giving a hint that the place wasn’t in tension at all.
「That’s good for us. Let’s enter from their blind spot. 」
Without much difficulty, Ardis and Rona both managed to infiltrate the fortress, and while evading people, they set their aim to the basement.
Using mana detection, they discovered that there were about two hundred people within the fortress.
Most of them gathered at the central court of the fortress, but their reactions were quite insignificant.
It’s probably like what the information broker said about them as soldiers that need training.
They’re probably youngsters that barely became a soldier recently.
「Say, Al. There are about five strong ones, right? 」
Ardis who agreed with Rona also discovered the mana reactions that were many leagues greater than the others within the fortress.
They’re obviously not new soldiers, and if they are mercenaries, then they are surely battle veterans.
「Uheeh. If we were to fight, it will be really harsh. 」
「We’re not here to fight. We just have to complete our objective without getting noticed. 」
「I hope that’s the case. 」
Luckily, the people in the fortress didn’t look like they had realized their infiltration.
If they used mana detection, then the two would surely be discovered, but it’s not like they are so free to use mana detection all the time, only odd balls would use mana detection constantly in their daily lives while not in combat.
Ardis and Rona were both being careful as they sneaked around in the fortress.
While searching room by room for one that connects to the basement, they found a food storeroom and a study, but no place that connects to the basement.
After facing several misses, they finally arrived at a small room that was likely the entrance to the basement.
Thinking about the structure of the fortress, this would be the only sensible place to have an entrance to the underground jail.
There were two mana reactions inside.
At that time, one of the reactions in the room started moving.
Immediately, both Ardis and Rona hid in the shadows.
While the two were holding their breath, one soldier exited from the small room.
At that instant, Ardis confirmed the existence of a staircase that led underground into the room.
The soldier that left the room walked off somewhere.
After his footsteps became far enough that they couldn’t hear it, Rona spoke.
「Did you see that? 」
「Yeah, I saw it. 」
The staircase that leads underground is probably in this room.
Unlike other places, having guards here meant that the probability is very high.
「What do we do? Look for another entrance? 」
「No, it’s unlikely to have multiple entrances to a underground jail after all. 」
「Thought so. Then, since there’s only one in the room now, kill him? 」
Like Rona said, now is their chance.
「There’s no need to hesitate if he’s one of the bastards from the experimenting facilities but……」
Even Ardis had hesitation killing a normal soldier he has no grudge with.
「It’s fine as long as he stays put until we escape. 」
「Then, leave the blinding to me. 」
Dividing their roles quickly, Ardis put his hand on the door handle of the small room and pushed.
「What’s up? Did you forget――」
It seems like the soldier thought Ardis was his colleague and asked, but a surprised expression immediately showed on his face.
The two were not ones to let that opening escape.
Rona immediately ran through the opened gap of the door and filled the room entirely with darkness using his arts.
At the same time, Ardis who jumped forward closed the distance in an instant and drove a punch with his right fist deep into the soldier’s abdomen.
The next moment after forcefully shutting his mouth, Ardis fired a punch with his left fist to his chin from the side.
With that punch, the soldier finally passed out and collapsed on the ground.
「Making it look like he’s sleeping, or tying him up, which one is better? 」
Dispelling the darkness, Rona drew closer.
「……Just throw him down there after tying his mouth and limbs. 」
After saying so, Ardis took out the rope and cloth he had to tie up the soldier and stop him from screaming, before throwing the soldier over his shoulder and headed downstairs.
After descending the staircase, as they thought, it was the underground jail.
However, the scale was many times larger than what Ardis and Rona had expected.
「We can’t even see the end. 」
「This jail, how far does it go on for? 」
For the time being, Ardis threw the soldier into the cell closest to the staircase, then the two started walking through the underground jail passageway.
Beside the passageway that was strangely long, there were small divisions of jail cells.
However, there were no one in them.
The passageway continued far into the distance, where the end couldn’t be seen in the dark, although there are many jail cells because of the length, there were not even a single presence around them.
「There’s not a single person in them―」
「It’s a peaceful period after all. 」
If it’s not a war period, there shouldn’t be any people locked up in the jail anyways.
More so when there’s another newer fortress, despite being close to the border, they heard the role of keeping prisoners had been delegated to the newer fortress.
Perhaps it is only used occasionally to detain problematic soldiers or suspicious travelers at most.
「But still, this place is really long, right―」
「Maybe it wasn’t a jail but a underground passageway before. 」
Looking closely, the wear and tear between the passageway and the jail cells were very not matching that it was easy to tell they weren’t made together.
Ardis who was not specialized in this regard couldn’t tell the details, but when compared to the jail cells, the conditions of the passageway and the roof were worn out more.
「So that means there might be an exit at the end? 」
「If not, they wouldn’t make such an incomprehensible shaped jail, right? 」
「I guess that’s true. 」
Rona was convinced easily by Ardis’s theory.
The underground jail is probably extending out of the fortress.
Thinking about it normally, it’s common sense to build a jail within the bounds of the fortress.
There might’ve been a cost or time issue.
For whatever reason, the underground passageway was repurposed to become an underground jail.
While walking and seeing the empty cells beside them, Ardis and Rona eventually had no words left to converse.
The endless passageway was only reverberating the dry footsteps.
Eventually, after passing by about fifty empty cells, Ardis’s mana detection finally caught onto a person’s reaction.
「Sense it, Rona? 」
「Unn. It’s very weak, but there’s a person here. 」
As the natural response, Ardis’s stride became faster.
If there’s still a reaction, that meant that they are still alive.
Unlike the information that was uncertain until now, the information this time was particularly credible.
Information of a prisoner in this kind of remote fortress would not get out usually.
In that sense, it’s understandable why Ardis and Rona had never searched here prior.
It’s likely the prisoner here who is Luciel herself.
They didn’t know what reason she was being held prison for more than three years.
But being alive is all it matters.
After rescuing her and getting out of here, they can return to Wisteria, or even retire being mercenaries and go on a carefree journey together with Rona.
Maybe settling down somewhere would be good too.
For Ardis, all that matters is having Luciel by his side.
However, Ardis who was praying so had forgotten.
The world is not that kind.
Ardis, who dashed into the jail cell with the powerful response of joy, was thrown into the depths of misery the next second.