After that, in a similar way, Ardis and Rona caught two of the remaining four persons, interrogated, and had them taste a living hell for the short period before they died, just like the first person.
Despite not able to use arts, Marty’s group still had mana.
It might’ve been a different story if they could use mana detection like Ardis, but they were too specialized in their swordsmanship that they had forgone learning arts.
In a situation where the opponents couldn’t find their location, but they can easily find their opponents’ locations, a difference in numbers didn’t matter at all.
It was as easy as laying low until their opponents became alone and not letting that opportunity escape.
However, the situation didn’t prolong.
As expected, with three killed when wandering on their own, Marty’s group was very on guard.
They stopped acting on their own, and there were more strong mana reactions coming from the fortress.
「Looks like this is all we can do. There are now strong mana reactions that weren’t there before. 」
Ardis muttered hatefully while glaring at the fortress far away.
The information broker that provided information about the fortress had probably sold Ardis’s information to Rodelia as well.
They knew it would become like this if they took time, but to surely overwhelm their opponents, they couldn’t mistake the timing of attacking.
Knowing that, Ardis gritted his teeth, wanting to take at least the group of five down.
「But we’ve gotten enough information already. I will also tag along until we send all of them to hell――」
Rona suggested that they should withdraw here.
With the information they squeezed out of the three people they killed, they had gotten a list of name and characteristics of the people that had laid hands on Luciel.
The anger clouded his eyes when he saw the number of people in it, but still, their targets were decided.
「Marty’s group will definitely……by my hands……! 」
「I know. I will tag along until we clean all of them up. If you can just leave an arm or a leg for me, the rest is up to Al to decide. 」
Despite the one suggesting retreating because of knowing their disadvantage rationally, Rona’s hatred towards Marty’s group was very strong.
It was not Ardis, but Luciel who found the young Rona and carried him in her arms.
The hatred towards those who trampled upon his best friend should be as much as Ardis’s.
「We can’t keep Ruu in a block of ice forever, right? How about finding a good place for her to rest in peace? 」
Directing a gaze full of lingering resentment towards the fortress, they left the place.
At that moment, the journey to find Luciel had completely changed into a journey to find revenge for Luciel.
Just like that, half a year had passed.
With information they had gotten by questioning, Ardis and Rona travelled across various places, and killed the soldiers that were once stationed in that fortress.
Despite knowing that there’s nothing to be gained from revenge, still, they couldn’t not take revenge.
Urged by a sense of something unknown, Ardis lived his life everyday by lashing out his hatred on his enemies.
By the time the long yet brief half year had passed, the targets of revenge that Ardis left were the last two from Marty’s group and Rodelia’s general, Jelia.
However, in this half year, Marty’s group had changed affiliation from the fortress into Jelia’s direct subordinate and were now in a place where the two couldn’t easily reach.
The reason why both Ardis and Rona could manage until now was because their opponents were acting alone, and a fatal wound was dealt when they were not on guard.
Even if they were under the influence of a vengeful heart, they still understood that barging into an enemy’s base just with the two of them is too reckless.
At that time, when both Ardis and Rona saw the limits of what they can do stopped by a town, by total coincidence, they reunited with the Wisteria mercenary band.
Reaching for his sword by reflex when he was called suddenly, but when he turned around and saw their face, his guard immediately dispelled.
Then two siblings jumped at him.
The older sister stuck onto Ardis from the front, while the little brother that came later stuck from the back.
「Reina, Kyo…… you two, why are you here? 」
They were the children that Ardis and Luciel once rescued from one of Rodelia’s facilities.
Almost five years had passed since that.
Although both undeniably grew a lot bigger, their faces still had traces of youngness which were definitely of the little sister and little brother figures that he had taken care of lovingly.
「Why are you here!? 」
Hearing how Ardis’s question was returned to him, it hinted at a total coincidental reunion.
「Well, I’m here to get my weapon maintenance……」
「Really? Then that’s a big coincidence! 」
「Eh……you didn’t come here to help us? 」
The little brother Kyo was solely overjoyed at the encounter, while the older sister Reina looked a little dissatisfied.
「By the way, I’m here too―. Don’t tell me I’m forgotten already right―」
The golden partner by his leg was complaining in a monotone fashion.
「Of course not, Rona! I still remember properly! 」
Separating from Ardis, Kyo then hugged Rona.
Rona sat tight and let Kyo did as he wished quietly, while his gaze towards Reina was suggesting 『What about you? 』.
「Rona welcome back! Fufu, you’re as fluffy as always」
Defeated by the invitation, Reina hugged onto Rona with a child-like smile.
The carefree smiles of those two, it felt like they could heal Ardis’s scarred heart.
「Both of you became so big after a short while. 」
When they left Wisteria to look for Luciel, both were still small.
Kyo’s height wasn’t even close to Ardis’s waist level.
Since Rona was already an adult at that time, there wasn’t any significant changes in his size ever since.
Could it be that his sense of time was numbed by the presence of his unchanging partner that he shared day and night with?
Seeing the two’s growth, he was suddenly reminded of the length of time that had passed.
「Al-nii, you’re talking like an old uncle―! 」
Kyo who had enjoyed Rona’s body for a while looked up at Ardis and laughed.
Ardis’s cheeks loosened a little for the first time in a while.
Ardis and Rona were guided by Reina and Kyo to one of the inns in town and reunited with familiar faces.
「Welcome back, Ardis. 」
It was Elion, one half of the genius mage twins who welcomed Ardis.
Hearing his calm demeanor, Ardis was skeptical.
「That’s a response as if you knew I was coming. 」
「Of course not. I’m plenty surprised actually. 」
The beautiful boy with a silver hair of green tinge said with a smile.
「With that casual expression? And what’s with that reserved manner of speaking」
「It’s because of my role in the band now. About two years ago, I was handed over the position of public negotiations from Victor-san. So, my appearance and tone are because of that. It’s an annoyance to switch between them every time after all. 」
「Elion for public negotiations huh……. Is Victor not there? 」
「Victor-san is still in the band. He’s very much lively after pushing all the troubles onto me. 」
Looks like that shrewd man had quickly found himself a successor and threw all his job on him, relieving himself of the burden on his shoulders earlier.
「Although a substitute, Captain is currently staying in this inn. Let me guide you. 」
Following Elion who said so and turned around, stepping into a room on the inn’s second floor, Ardis found the man who was both his parent figure and teacher.
It was Greyth, the leader of the mercenary band, Wisteria that Ardis was once in.
「…………Ain’t it Ardis! 」
Greyth who looked stupefied for a few moments showed joy in his olive-colored pupils.
「Hahahah, so you were still alive! 」
Unlike what his words may suggest at first, Greyth approached him with a blooming expression, as if ascertaining his existence, he hit Ardis’s back a few times.
Swallowing the complaint that was at his throat, Ardis lowered his gaze and head.
「What’s with that」
「At a time when the band was having a hard time, I left for my own convenience. I can’t argue for what I have caused. 」
At that time, even though Luciel was the only thing in his mind, the band was suffering from a severe lack of combatants, and he had left without saying much, disappearing for almost five years.
It’s natural for someone like that to be punished as a deserter if it’s an army, and even in a mercenary band, it’s common sense to be punished or blamed.
Even if it’s not something that can be easily forgiven with a simple bow, Ardis had regained enough calm now to understand that he had caused considerable trouble.
Providing a place for them when they had nowhere to go, having taught the way to survive. Leaving aside repaying with grace, Ardis’s action that can be said repaying with ill was always on his mind.
「Oh, so you were worried over something like that. 」
「Something like that……」
「It’s nothing to be upset over. I know you did it for the sake of what is most important to you. There’s no one in Wisteria who will blame you for that. 」
「…………Thank you. 」
「What’s with that reservedness. The little brat that slashed at me on first sight acting like an adult now. 」
Being recalled of his pathetic past, Ardis looked very guilty.
Then, Elion who was staying at the sidelines joined the battle.
「Aah, it was the story when Captain picked up Ardis, right? With just one knife in hand, he ignored everyone else and jumped straight towards Captain. 」
Ardis unintentionally covered his face with his hand.
Even though he couldn’t think of another way at the time, now he could understand how reckless he was being at that time.
While suffering from a pain that he wants to dig a hole and jump into, he felt like his wounded heart was wrapped in the warmth of both Greyth and Elion who never blamed him for all the troubles that he had caused.
After a short while of ridiculing each other, Greyth suddenly asked with a serious expression.
「So…… did you find Ruu after that? 」
Ardis’s heart that was loosened for a while suddenly stiffened and became cold.
Even if he wanted to word it, his voice didn’t come out, Ardis shook his head as the answer.
「You found her!? 」
Elion was surprised.
It felt like Elion’s emotions finally shown itself for the first time ever since the reunion.
「……Before we talk about that, can Reina and Kyo step outside first? 」
He must tell them about Luciel’s final moment.
At the very least, Greyth and Elion both have the right to hear it.
「Why can’t we listen!? 」
「I too was worried for Ruu-nee for a long time you know!? 」
Not able to accept that they were being left out, Reina and Kyo were both complaining.
「It’s still too early for both of you. 」
「Early, what do you mean by early!? 」
「What do you mean? You found Ruu-nee, right? 」
Ardis who was troubled sent gazes to Greyth and Elion.
「Ardis, let them hear it too. 」
「They too are proper mercenaries now. They managed to hunt a Nedulo on their own, and they’ve participated in battle as part of the frontline multiple times already. Don’t treat them as children. 」
「Haa……? Leaving aside Reina, Kyo is still――」
Like Ardis, Reina and Kyo’s actual ages were unknown.
However, even at that time, Ardis too was met with voices of 「It’s still too early for him」.
The older sister, Reina, was still younger than Ardis of that time, and Kyo was still a little boy that hasn’t changed voice yet.
Being told that both joined as proper mercenaries after managing to hunt a Nedulo on their own was a little hard to believe.
「It’s the truth. Both became one of us officially last year. They are much more talented children than I am. 」
Ardis couldn’t speak after hearing Elion, one of the genius mage twins along with Sark, say that.
However, since both Greyth and Elion had said so, Ardis found it hard to argue as both Reina and Kyo are recognized as proper mercenaries now.
Ardis had no choice but to reluctantly recognize the two still young children as proper mercenaries.
「But, don’t regret after hearing it. 」
With that preface, Ardis started talking about what happened after he left the mercenary band.