The first thing Ardis saw after waking up was Minerva with a worried face that overhung from the side.
「Where is ……」
Ardis who was knocked out by Victor woke up and realized that he was in an unfamiliar room.
The walls and ceiling were rather shabby.
And the bed present certainly wasn’t comfortable.
「The napping room inside the post huh……」
Immediately identifying where he was, Ardis let out a small sigh before relaxing.
「Is any part of your body painful? How are you feeling? Are you alright? 」
Ardis smiled bitterly at the appearance of Minerva that rapid fired questions.
Even though he was beaten to the ground by Victor, he wasn’t killed yet.
Certainly, he was in pain, but this wasn’t pain in the physical sense.
「It’s not funny at all! Don’t you know how worried I am!? 」
Misunderstanding the meaning of the bitter smile, Minerva’s expression suddenly overturned as she raised her volume.
After a while of awkwardness, as if embarrassed of her behavior, she lowered her voice and relaxed her eyebrows.
「I heard from everyone. Even if it was for protecting the town, facing against so many enemies from the front is……」
She probably heard it from Moore’s subordinates.
Minerva was reprimanding him because she thought it was a reckless act, but for Ardis, it was something he did after seeing he had more than enough of a chance.
「No, that much isn’t particularly……」
After all, if Victor didn’t appear there, there wouldn’t have been any problems.
However, it’s also the truth that Ardis had never expected a familiar person to become his enemy.
If it was pointed out that he let his guard down because of that, he wouldn’t have anything to retort with.
「Of course, I know Shishou is really strong. But…… there’s a limit to recklessness! 」
Unable to accept Ardis’s answer, Minerva reprimanded him strongly again.
「When Captain Greystar came back while carrying Shishou, you have no idea……what I was……」
Losing her words as she spoke, eventually, tears swelled out.
「I won’t say that recklessness isn’t allowed. A battle――, especially when it’s a clash between armies, there’s a need to push through with recklessness. However, seeing Shishou getting injured somewhere I don’t know……, I don’t want that. 」
For a mercenary that puts his life in fighting, getting injuries is as common as eating.
However, that doesn’t mean Ardis thought it was appropriate to let his admiring pupil suffer. As Ardis was wondering how he could soothe the girl that was at a sensitive age, suddenly, he heard words that made his head tilt.
「That’s why, whenever Shishou is going to be reckless, I will be there too. Even with my inexperienced self, I can at least protect Shishou’s back. 」
「Wait, that conclusion is strange. 」
Rather than thinking about it, his retort came out first.
「Why!? I don’t intend to overestimate myself and say that I can fight alongside Shishou, but I take pride in my strength and can at least be of some use! 」
「Uh, no―, uh―……」
Facing Minerva who bear confidence in her expression, Ardis’s words clouded.
For Ardis, he was happy with Minerva’s thoughts.
But at the same time, he felt hesitant to let his pupil stand on a risky and bloody battlefield.
In the first place, Ardis didn’t even know whether he could win against Victor if he fought seriously.
Under Ardis’s guidance, Minerva had gotten enough skills to call herself a distinguishable swordswoman, but that’s only when measured with the standard of this world.
With her current skills, it’s likely that she wouldn’t even stand a chance against a Nedulo, and would only be toyed around in the other world.
Even more so when her opponent is that genius, she wouldn’t even last two bouts of sword exchange.
Just as he was hugging his head inwardly on how to stop his pupil from having those ideas, Moore entered the room.
「Ooh, you’re awake. Didn’t I tell you, Ojou-sama. No need to worry since there weren’t any visible wounds. 」
「It’s impossible for me to not worry. 」
Moore said with a smile towards Minerva after calling out to Ardis, but the duke’s daughter herself looked away while peeved.
Her current expressions have increased when compared to the time they first met, as Ardis started thinking about random things.
「So, how are you? Any problems physically? 」
「Yeah, no problem. How long has it been since then? 」
「About half a day! 」
「I see……. Sorry to have you see me in a pathetic state. 」
「No, it’s not something to apologize for. It’s thanks to Ardis that we managed to drive away the Thoria army. Well, it was a surprise though. I went to look for you since you didn’t come back for a while even after the fight ended, and then I found you on the ground. 」
Moore carried a round chair from a corner of the room and sat by the bed.
「So, what happened? 」
「I reunited with someone I knew……. And then it became a fight. 」
「Was he in the Thoria army? 」
「Nope, that’s not it. But that doesn’t mean he’s on our side too……」
「……He’s strong? 」
Ardis who hesitated to answer for a bit revealed his honest appraisal.
「If possible, I would like to avoid a fight with him. I suppose that’s the best way to describe it? 」
「That’s quite…… troubling, isn’t it. 」
As Moore narrowed his eyes, Ardis returned with a question.
「How many casualties were there? 」
「……Eight died. 」
A battle where there was a huge discrepancy in the numbers.
Thanks to Ardis’s effort to surround the entire town with a wall, the battle was far more advantageous than how it should’ve been, but that still doesn’t change the fact it was 100 defenders against 300 attackers.
It’s not a fight that could be won without casualties.
As for the result, eight of them became casualties.
It should be an insignificant price to pay to repel an army of thousand, but Ardis still had a difficult expression.
「It was a necessary sacrifice. Don’t blame yourself. 」
Even if it meant having casualties, rather than letting Ardis take care of everything, they had to produce results with the volunteering soldiers in town, so that the other residents who hadn’t sensed a threat would wake up.
It was something decided way before the Thoria army arrived.
Although it wasn’t something praiseworthy from the human perspective, it was politically necessary.
「It’s regrettable to have casualties, but in fact, after having invaded by Thoria army, the people in town are finally showing conscious that they are also part of it. The atmosphere around certainly turned into more of a town when compared to yesterday. With this much, I’m sure there’ll be more people that are willing to join the defense effort. ……But that also means more will leave the town. 」
To enhance the defensive wall further in the current state, certainly, there are some parts that only Ardis is capable of.
However, it’s undesirable to have Ardis alone carry the burden.
Since Ardis won’t be around to protect the town forever, the residents must be willing to take the initiative in defending their town, or else getting absorbed by the Thoria Kingdom or the Elmenia Empire is only a matter of time.
「That is well……unavoidable. 」
After the battle finished, among the refugees that didn’t at first believe the news of the Thoria army coming, there were people that started to leave.
From their perspective, the place that they thought was at first a haven, will soon devolve into another battlefield too.
Excluding people with special circumstances like Minerva, there are probably some that decided to return to their hometown after settling down from the fight.
「Since we have no need to retain them, we’ve got no obligation to take care of them too. Rather than facing against Thoria or the empire, it’s much easier to sneak back into their territory and live a stable life. 」
Moore smiled bitterly at what Ardis said.
「So much so that I’m even thinking that all of us should just ditch this place and live without troubles. 」
「That’s right. If all the refugees would return to their daily lives, then there’s no need to maintain this town, and just us alone can bring Minerva along to the hidden village. 」
Having said so, it wasn’t a realistic option.
Even if there are many leavers after this incident, it’s not like all four thousand refugees in the town would leave.
Although it has become a matter like this, of course, they couldn’t suddenly throw their responsibilities halfway after deciding to take care of them.
「Well, the Thoria army must have incurred considerable damage from this battle too. Since it will take some time before they can organize another army, we should be safe for a few months but…… the problem is now the empire. 」
They had to discuss countermeasures against the empire that will eventually come quickly.