Ardis is now outside Thoria’s walls, a port town that has become the name of a kingdom and the capital of its own kingdom.
The outer walls that is the boundary between the town where people lived and the grassland where threats lurked.
Few gates were set up along the wall, and there was a queue in each of them, where people waited for their turn to enter.
「Was it fine? 」
「What is? 」
Looking at the outer walls from the grass lands, Rona near his feet asked in a small voice, but Ardis answered with another question.
「For leaving without saying a thing……」
「I did tell Moore.」
「Moore only, right」
「That’s enough right? 」
While sending exasperated gazes to Ardis who was exuding an atmosphere of what’s wrong, Rona sighed and muttered.
Those words were unknown whether they are for the twins or Minerva who were left in the unknown, or for Moore that will probably be on the receiving end of their wrath.
Although Ardis felt a little guilty for it, that doesn’t mean the fight this time is something he wanted to involve them.
Certainly, Minerva had become strong enough to get an appraisal of a first-rate swordswoman. Fillia and Riana are probably strong enough that any average mercenaries aren’t even worth considering.
However, this time, even Ardis would have difficulty to look out for their safety while fighting.
Naturally, he didn’t intend to lose here, but the strength required here is the strength to escape even when they are surrounded by enemies alone.
While thinking about such things, the queue on the gate continued to shorten.
Eventually, the gatekeeping soldier noticed Rona beside Ardis and was surprised with round eyes.
「What’s with that beast? 」
「Even if you asked me, he’s my partner. 」
The soldier’s response was natural.
Although he was acting behaved beside Ardis, Rona’s appearance was still of a one meter long four-pedaled beast.
Moreover, he looked nothing but a carnivorous beast.
Can’t be helped if he’s being on guard.
In fact, while lining up, people near Ardis had an inexplicable atmosphere.
This is the normal reaction. Rather, it’s the people in the hidden village or Glock that’s abnormal for getting so familiar with Rona’s appearance.
「Is he under your control? 」
「Don’t treat him like any normal beast. This guy won’t be hurting anyone if there’s no need, there’s no way he would show his fangs unless for a clear enemy. 」
The soldier had a suspicious look hearing Ardis’s answer.
Having the task to protect the town and bar any suspicious individuals from entering, it’s natural for the soldier to be suspicious of an existence like Rona, Ardis had fully expected this development.
「Still, that doesn’t mean I can let a beast that large to enter the town……」
「That’s troubling. This guy is irreplaceable for what I must do in Thoria. 」
As Ardis replied so to the soldier, naturally he faced another question.
「What you must do? 」
「I came to capture the castle here. 」
The soldier’s understanding couldn’t catch up with that sudden expression, as he made a foolish noise with his mouth opened.
A short while of silence, then, in the next moment, the soldier’s expression became strict and questioned Ardis.
「What did you say? It’s not something you can joke around. 」
「No problem. It isn’t a joke after all. 」
As Ardis answered so, the soldier took a step back and readied his spear.
「I ask again. Depending on your answer, there will be consequences. 」
The soldier pointed the spear at Ardis and asked again.
「What are you trying to do in Thoria? 」
Ardis answered with a cool face towards the soldier with a serious face.
「As I said, I came here to capture the castle. I will wait for Marquis Thoria to come out―― or rather, he’s King Thoria now, is it. My purpose here is to capture or kill him. 」
As Ardis answered obediently, the soldier’s expression changed colors.
It’s probably obvious that something is wrong there.
From the guard’s standby post, several other armed soldiers rushed out, as the other travelers or merchants that were lining up backed away in fear.
「Surround him! 」
A superior-looking man ordered, and about ten soldiers surrounded Ardis and Rona.
Despite surrounded on all directions and having spears pointing towards him, Ardis didn’t break his calmness.
「Resistance is futile, don’t do anything strange! 」
「Whether it’s futile or not, that’s up for me to decide. 」
「Restrain him! 」
Ignoring Ardis’s calm demeanor, the soldiers rushed at him at once.
「Don’t kill them. There’s still the aftermath to consider. 」
「Nn, yeah. 」
After a short conversation, Ardis and Rona moved at the same time.
Ardis quickly pulled his sword out and parried the spear aimed at him.
Dashing into the soldier that has his stance crumbled, he drove his fist deep into the abdomen.
Immediately bending his body, ducking away from the pursuing attacks from another soldier, then swung his sword and cut off the handle.
「He’s skillful! 」
Realizing Ardis’s strength, one of the soldiers warned but, that itself didn’t help at all.
The soldiers’ attack all struck empty air, on the other hand, all of Ardis’s attacks steadily whittled away at their strength.
With more than half of the soldiers incapacitated in just a few moments, as expected, having realized Ardis’s strength, they took their distance with their weapons still up.
「You…… who are you! 」
Ardis who was asked pondered.
Using the seam when the Empire is focused at the Coalition, their aim in this fight is to put the town of Thoria under their control.
When he arrived at this thought, it was natural how Moore said, 「Are you insane? 」.
Normally thinking, Glock don’t have much military power now.
Even if they do manage to take over Thoria, Ardis understood already that they have no manpower to manage the territory.
Still, now that the Bronshell Republic was ruined and the Coalition is in a difficult position, if they were to sit and do nothing but watch, eventually, Glock will surely be crushed by Rovres Alliance’s overwhelming military power.
That’s why, targeting the smallest faction within the Rovres Alliance, and at the same time, the faction that is a threat towards Glock, Thoria, Ardis thought they can introduce chaos within the alliance and benefit from that.
Of course, there’s a possibility that it doesn’t serve any purpose but, sitting and doing nothing is clearly the worse option.
If so, it is better for them to take the initiative to lead the scenario into one that benefits themselves.
It would be great if by taking down Thoria, the surrounding forces would follow suit to go under their control too.
Even without accomplishing that, at the very least, they can name themselves as having enough power to resist against the Rovres Alliance. This was what Ardis aimed for this time.
Now that they are already branded as an anti-Rovres Alliance force, there’s no use in acting innocent.
If so, then the natural choice is to make the best use of their position.
Remnants of Nagras Kingdom or Bronshell Republic, lords of the old Nagras Kingdom that have their territory swallowed by the Thoria Kingdom, remains of the Coalition city-states that were crushed, only if they gather all those elements that they can finally fight for real.
This time, it’s not as if solely winning will do.
Capturing the castle alone, or assassinating King Thoria isn’t that difficult but, that itself will only bring chaos to the scene, not actually defeating the Thoria Kingdom.
The one who won must not be an individual but be recognized as a symbol of anti Rovres Alliance.
To push the label of 『A defeated country』 onto Thoria Kingdom, he mustn’t state his identity as a 『Mercenary』 here.
Still, that doesn’t mean Ardis can state the name of Glock here.
Although it’s a battle he has confidence winning, there was something like what happened with Victor before.
Thinking about the possibility of a defeat or retreat, it’s better not for him to name Glock.
In the end, what Ardis came up with was the name of his hometown, the name of the flag he once carried.
Was it because Ardis’s mutter wasn’t caught clearly? He was asked again so he redeclared.
「Ardis of the Wisteria has come to take the neck of King Thoria. Stand back if you don’t want to get hurt. Stand in my way if you have the resolve to have one or two broken bones. 」
As Ardis spoke while taking a step forward, the soldiers immediately reacted.
「Get him at once! Don’t let him pass! 」
Along with the order, the soldiers jumped out.
Ardis without slowing his steps down took all the attacks from the front.
The bluish glowing barrier that he deployed ahead blocked the soldiers’ spears.
「Barrier! When!? 」
Shooting a ball of compressed air to the surprised soldiers, in an instant, all of them were blown away.
Some of them crashed into the wall, and some of them rolled several times before crashing into the ground.
Even though it was with restrain, they got hit by a surprise counterattack. It’s not strange to have one or two broken ribs.
「Al, the gate is closing. 」
Ardis isn’t here to slaughter anyone.
Leaving the incapacitated soldiers on the ground, Ardis, and Rona both made their way into the gate.
The soldiers were trying to close the gates in a panic.
However, Ardis used earth arts on the moving parts of the gates, and successfully stuck the gates from moving.
Then, after incapacitating the soldiers who were desperately trying to pull the stuck gates similarly with compressed air, Ardis and Rona passed by the door casually.
「Backup! We need backup! 」
「Don’t let them pass! 」
In front of Ardis and Rona who walked without dropping pace, more and more armed soldiers appeared.
「Say, why don’t we just fly to the castle already? 」
「Then we’re not doing the flaunting part right? 」
「So troublesome. 」
Despite complaining about it, Rona still walked alongside Ardis.
Despite the gathering soldiers’ attempts to stop the intruder, all of them were kicked away in one attack, as the two continued their casual strides.
Contrary to Ardis and Rona who were walking as if they were taking a tour, the Thoria soldiers were starting to lose their cool.
Naturally, Ardis had not laid a hand on anyone other than the Thoria soldiers.
All he did basically was pulverizing the enemy’s weapon with his sword, or sometimes using his fist to incapacitate them.
The arts he used were all weak in power, none of them even came close to hitting the residents in Thoria or the buildings.
Rather, the soldiers were the one too focused on trying to fight Ardis that they were the one that made a mess of the street stalls.
The soldiers that jumped on Ardis bounced off immediately and crashed on the ground.
「What…… is that? 」
「An arrest……? 」
「But for an arrest……」
The residents were confused at the soldiers who were full of killing intent, and Ardis and Rona without any signs of unrest.
There was no bleeding, nor was there any arts fired.
None of them would ever think that this was an invasion from an enemy force.
It’s not just the residents that were confused.
Among the people that spectated from a corner of the street, there were mercenaries who are based in Thoria.
At the very least, they were more aware of the abnormality with Ardis walking on the main street leisurely despite facing bloodshot gazes from the soldiers.
Still, understanding the abnormality and understanding what is happening is a different story.
There was one mercenary that suddenly raised his voice while watching the surrounding soldiers get neutralized instantly and Ardis advancing to the castle in shock.
「A-Ardis…… right? 」
As Ardis turned towards the voice that felt familiar, there was a tall man with ash blonde hair and a petite woman with madder hair.
Seeing both of them wearing like mercenaries, Ardis tried to dig from his memories.
「Was it…… Gresche and Konia? 」
「Y-Yeah. That’s right. 」
Both are mercenaries that Ardis had worked with before while he was active in Thoria.
Forming the party 『Costas』 with the four of them from the same hometown, they were mercenaries that became famous for their strength in Thoria after 『Bright Stars of White Night』 left.
Ardis’s cheeks loosened from the familiar faces.
「It’s been a while. Haven’t you become a better mercenary than last time? 」
「Well, of course……, thanks to you. …… Wait, that’s not the point! 」
Gresche was carried by the calm atmosphere but, he suddenly regained himself and yelled out.
「What is happening here? What is Ardis doing? 」
「What, you asked? Well, it’s as you can see. 」
「It’s because I can’t see that I’m asking. 」
Ardis looked around, and he was met with the same confused expression everywhere.
Looks like the battle was too unheated that no one there understood that was an actual battle.
Since Ardis had no reason to hide, he answered honestly.
「Well, I have some reason, so I thought I should capture the castle here. 」
Contrary to how he said it as if he’s off to grab a meal since he’s hungry, what he said not peaceful at all.
Not able to process the information he heard, Gresche was first struck with confusion, but then looked at Ardis with a gaze doubting his sanity.
「See you. I must go, I’m in the middle of a mission after all. 」
As Ardis took a step forward from the other spectators that were as confused as Gresche, Ardis recalled something and turned around.
「Oh, right. If any of you intends to stand against me on King Thoria’s side――」
Not just towards Gresche, he stared daggers to every mercenary there.
「――Come after resolving yourself. I won’t be sparing any effort against anyone that comes with clear intent of hostility. 」
Leaving such words, Ardis once again restarted his strides towards the castle in the center of the town.