About ten days after Ardis departed from Thoria.
Starting with Minerva, the group of ambassadors and escorts sped to Calves, a Coalition city-state, after switching horses in Glock on the route.
Minerva and four other bureaucrats accompanied the escorts, Ardis, Riana, Kyrill, Ellenoa, and lastly, Marrieda, who was functioning as an advisor and messenger with Nicole, for a total of 10 people.
「Coming this far out in just ten days is really shocking~nii. 」
As Calves came into sight, Marrieda started a conversation while she rode behind Ardis.
「What, you didn’t believe it? 」
「I mean, I can’t help it. Not stopping by any town, going off the safe highway, ten days is enough time to get there, but something like that is what we call a 『Paper plan』 ~nii. 」
「Distance wise, it’s much closer than going to Elmenia’s capital. We’re not stopping by any towns to resupply, so there’s no need for detours. Considering how we have to evade enemy eyes, we also can’t use the highway, but even after considering all of that――」
「Hear me, highways are there because the threat from demonic beings and beasts are a thing~nii. Even if you word it like encountering enemy soldiers is worse than demonic beings……」
「Isn’t it at most a Despair that comes out? I think it’s much easier to deal with than if we were to meet enemy soldiers. 」
「Unn, your 『at most a Despair』 is already strange~nii……」
Marrieda backed off with a convinced expression, despite looking like she had something more to say.
After all, like what Marrieda said, just the number of encounters with demonic beings went above ten fingers.
Still, all of them are not a threat in front of Ardis.
That’s after including the six people to be escorted including Marrieda.
Moreover, the most important figure, Minerva herself, is more adept at using a sword than any average mercenary.
As for Riana and Kyrill, from what Ardis can see, they have enough strength to fight by themselves.
In fact, during the road, there wasn’t any time for Ardis to act before any encounters were mostly cleaned up by Riana.
As for the standard of what Ardis can see, they can be considered overwhelming strong in this world.
Albeit not on the level of Riana, Kyrill is also a powerful magician that can’t be gauged by the standard methods.
Despite having only a few members, the group’s overall combat power is quite high.
On top of that, Ardis has his gate.
Food or water, even horse feed, can be carried easily in large volumes. Therefore, there wasn’t any need for them to go through the towns or villages that the enemies had occupied.
Marrieda was certainly right about the plan being paper, but with Ardis around, even a paper plan can be realized.
「From what I can see, there are not as many enemies as I thought. I expected them to be surrounded without gaps though. 」
「But there are remains of a siege. Did they think it was too difficult after their first attempt, so they withdrew for the moment? 」
Kyrill made his opinion as Ellenoa voiced her question.
There are signs of damage from magic and a sieging weapon on the wall surrounding Calves.
On the other hand, the united army of the Monarchy and Empire had settled at a hill some distance away, but their army were also lesser than expected.
Ardis then came up with his own guess after considering Kyrill’s idea.
「Other than Calves, there should be two or three more city states that are under attack. They might’ve shifted their focus there. The people left here are probably just to monitor the Calves army and stop them from sending reinforcements. And by throwing a few harassments here and there, they can keep Calves on alert and lose rest, I suppose. 」
Riana who was sitting in front of Ardis turned around, and her platinum blonde hair fluttered in the air.
Since Riana didn’t have any training on riding a horse, she was on Ardis’s horse for now.
Normally, someone who can’t even ride a horse wouldn’t be considered in the mission, but since Riana can fly by herself when the occasion needs it, she won’t become a burden.
「Can’t Calves take care of them on their own? 」
Riana asked with her light greenish blue eyes on Ardis.
「It’s not impossible, but……if it’s a battle that can cost them a lot, it will just put them in a worse spot than before. They probably can’t take that gamble yet. 」
「That’s why they’re looking forward to an alliance with us? Because it’s a good chance now that the Empire is focusing on another place. 」
「Yeah, that should be right. 」
Good job, Ardis who made such a smile affirmed.
Riana, who was once a little child he could hold with one arm, had grown this much.
From their appearance of riding the same horse, an outsider would even mistake them as a couple or siblings.
Then, Minerva joined the conversation.
「In any case, the alliance is something both of us need. It’s meaningful just to join hands in eliminating the immediate threats after all. ……It works both ways in the sense that we’re using each other. 」
It was unknown whether her sorry expression at the end was because of her inexperience, or her innate kindness.
「I don’t really know, but isn’t that what a diplomatic relation is? 」
On the other hand, the situation seemed natural for Ardis.
In a battlefield, if one is taking advantage of both enemies and allies, it’s sure to be the same the other way around. It made total sense for Ardis who grew up as a mercenary.
It was not rare to become allies while the opponents have the value, and then become enemies when they lose that value.
「Yup. No matter the diplomatic or business relations, they are the same in being give and take~nii. Thinking about the future, just make sure to get them very indebted~yon. 」
Marrieda who caught up beside them at some point said to Minerva.
「But if you show that kind of expression in a business setting, having the disadvantageous conditions pushed on you is not the worst~nii. I’m not an expert in diplomatic matters, but at the very least, between merchants, you know―」
「……Yes. Thank you for the warning. 」
「All fine~ no problem~. Onee-san always feels like giving support to a young girl, you know―」
Hearing Marrieda’s words, Ardis made his question.
Marrieda was already an adult the first time Ardis met her.
And now, 8 years had passed since then.
Just like how much Riana and Kyrill had grown, Marrieda’s age had also piled on.
Thinking about it, her age should be quite――.
「What’s that face? Come say it to me if you have something, I dare you~nii. 」
「Nope……nothing, really. 」
Reading something from Ardis’s face, Marrieda glared with a gesture of willing to fight.
As if escaping from her, Ardis pulled the reins in his hands, and ran ahead.
「Well then, the problem now is whether the enemies will let us through……」
Kyrill, a man that could read the air, was on the same page as Ardis who hinted at something.
「Let’s see. Even if they are not completely surrounding Calves, they will surely block us if we approach. 」
They had expected something like this from the start. There was nothing special about the solution either.
「As planned, if there are any pursuers, I will deal with them. Minerva and the others should go ahead. There’s no need to wait for me, so just shut the gates when you get in. Ellenoa, sorry, but can I leave Riana with you? 」
「Ardis, me too. 」
Riana with few words insisted with her gaze, but Ardis tried to convince her in a considerate way.
「They might split up and go that way. I want Riana to protect everyone. 」
Relieved at how she accepted it, Ardis was on the verge of patting her head, before stopping.
「Ah right, sorry. Still treating you as a little girl isn’t good, right. 」
「No, just patting is………not really anything 」
Averting her eyes with her words trailing off, Riana jumped off the horse and went towards Ellenoa.
Albeit tilting his head at the reaction, Ardis soon dismissed it, calling out to Minerva and Kyrill to talk about the plan for getting through.
Riana rode together with Ellenoa, and when their preparations were completed, they started charging towards Calves at full speed.
Naturally, the enemies settled on the hill noticed them.
「Their cavalries are coming out! 」
「Go as planned! 」
Responding to Kyrill’s voice, Ardis slowed down his horse, and got to the tail position of the group.
With a glance at the enemies, there were about twenty cavalries that were coming out.
As Ardis positioned himself to better face the enemies on his own while pulling the reins, the enemies decided to have three of them face him, while the other chased after the rest.
「No you won’t! 」
Ignoring the three cavalries that came his way, Ardis instead chased after the remaining seventeen.
They did seem surprised at his actions, but the enemies then had another two of them turn around to face Ardis.
Ardis’ objective does not change despite being pincered from two at his front and three from the back. It was still on the remaining fifteen that were chasing after Minerva’s group.
Taking out roughly twenty knives from the gate and making a gesture of throwing them, Ardis simultaneously propelled them forward one by one with his sword magic. The knives ripped apart the air with speeds too unimaginable to be thrown by a person, and drawing a smooth arc, they chased after their targets.
Then, the horses afar neighed in pain, and the soldiers on them started crashing into the ground one after another.
Even if sword magic, it’s difficult to inflict fatal damage to a target from afar that’s moving quickly. However, having aimed at the horses that are a few times larger than a person, the difficulty goes down substantially.
Even if they were small knives, a horse getting stabbed is dangerous.
As Ardis swung his arms down, the horses in pain ran amok, and swung off the soldiers riding on them.
From afar, it should have only looked like Ardis had thrown the knives.
After using up all his knives, Ardis pulled out the sword on his waist.
It’s the sword made from the refined Lesha he got from the Demon Beast King.
The blade itself reflected seven rays of different colors from the sun.
Not avoiding the two cavalries riding towards him, he charged at them with the momentum of slicing them apart.
Just as the two swords should have clashed into each other, Ardis’s sword easily sliced through the enemy’s sword, and then cut the soldier behind it into two.
It is also only the tiny moment when they passed by each other that the other cavalry could get surprised.
Cutting apart the other opponent through their weapon again, Ardis charged through without slowing down his horse.
While still dragging along the three cavalries on his tail, he charged into the group that fell from their horses and aimed only at those that tried to retaliate with their weapons raised.
The cavalries chasing from behind tried to stop Ardis, but at that point, the three cavalries from behind didn’t pose much threat.
Turning around and easily disposing of them, after making sure there weren’t any that still stood up, Ardis looked at the direction of Calves.
「So they entered without any problems. 」
He could see the gates closing.
Seeing how Minerva’s group wasn’t there in front of the gates, they probably already entered the city.
「Reinforcements…… are not coming. 」
He then looked at the enemy’s camp and their movement.
Did they decide it was pointless because the group had already entered town, leaving only Ardis behind? Or was it that they didn’t want any more casualties?
Although it was unclear, it was convenient for Ardis if they didn’t come.
「I better go before they change their mind. 」
Thinking that it was fortunate, Ardis pulled the reins, and galloped his horse towards Calves.